THE QUEENS VIEW AFFAIR - 4.5

[Book IV, Act V, Scene I. Rick's Carriage. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, MONTY, STEPHEN, DARIUS and RICK are here. The party are in RICK's plush carriage, which is quite large and classy, except for the "No Fat Chicks" bumper sticker. MONTY is driving, heading back towards Ataxia.]

Stephen : Okay, Mr. So-called Bringer, where is the real Bringer? And what's all this about an army?

Rick : [Close to tears, glancing up at Darius every so often, dismayed to see that he's still chewing on Sal's head] He's in Sclerotia, that's a large area between here and the South. All I've heard is that the Southerners are so convinced that he's working with the North they're going to launch a full scale attack with everything they've got left. [Winces as Darius rattles the head against his teeth]

Alice : [To Darius] Do you really have to torture him like that?

Darius : What can I say? I like a little head. Anyway, who are you to complain? You killed him!

Alice : So did they others!

Austin : [Kicks Rick in the shins] Answer Monty immediatley when he asks you a question! [Lights up a cheesearette and blows some smoke rings into Rick's face]

Rick : Ow! I don't know, I don't think he works for anyone! [ALICE gives AUSTIN an incredulous look.]

Alice : What are you doing?

Chastity : [Nodding in agreement. To Austin] I known that Rick makes Stump seem like a worthwhile use of existence, but threatening menaces for cooperation is stooping to the levels he himself has lowered to. It is above this group to act in such a manner. [DARIUS looks at CHASTITY and gives a big smile, but says nothing. The carriage has arrived in ATAXIA, which is now completely deserted, with virtually the whole town heading towards RICK's house. There is only one other carriage in the whole town.]

Alice : [To Darius] How did you end up in the Soul Sanctuary?

Darius : After you all did such a good job of not telling me what was going to happen in the fight, I figured something bad might happen, so I took precautions. Like I told you back then, you can't change the future, but you can use knowledge to your advantage.

Alice : Hey! You never told us that!

Darius : [Shrugs] I would have thought it was obvious.

Austin : [To Chastity] I see, so someone borrows some candlesticks from a church and you make sure they get 4 years in prison, but some piecs of scum [Gestures to Rick] enslaves an entire town and forces some of them to perform sexual acts with him, amongst othe things and you think that's okay? [Looks at Chastity incredulously] Sheesh! I thought you were supposed to be one of the good guys.

Chastity : You received your punishment after a fair trial without undue beatings beforehand. That is the difference. Rick will get his dues, I'm sure.

Chastity : At least someone is. [To Rick] Where have all the people gone? Is this your doing?

Austin : [To Chastity] A fair trial! It was a bloody witch hunt! I'm only glad you didn't burn me at the stake. [Looks away in a huff]

Rick : They must have gone to my house - for the last month they were in fear of me, now that it's finished, they're probably going to destroy my house.

Darius : At least it leaves the town ripe for a bit of looting. [Enter SNYDER, coming out of a shop with a television under his arm.]

Snyder : [Stops, with a big smile on his face as he sees the party, but quickly snaps it into his usual scowl] I might have known you scumbags would have something to do with this. Monty, how are they treating you?

Austin : [To Snyder] Well, he hasn't stooped to looting yet so he's not doing too badly I'd say. [Looks at Snyder pittifully]

Snyder : Hey! I was trying to buy this, I just couldn't find a shop assistant! [Nods to Monty] Keep up the good work lad, we're depending on you. [Gives Darius his dirtiest look possible] What's he doing here?

Darius : Eating a little head. [Opens his mouth to show that he's got Sal's head between his teeth]

Chastity : [Rolls her eyes. To Darius] Your head talk is about as choking as these two [gestures towards Austin and Steven] going on about their genitals. Please desist. [To Snyder] For once I am alomost pleased to see another unpleasant face, Mr. Snyder. Phili has no doubt seen fit to give Darius a second chance after saving Alice.

Snyder : [With disgust] Oh, please! Don't tell me you buy into that ludicrous story about him having done a deal with Phili? Why on earth would Phili ever enter such an arrangement?

Darius : Why indeed, my grotesque little friend, why indeed. [Starts rolling up a cheeseratte] You know, things weren't always as clear cut as they are now.

Alice : Things are clear cut now? [Looks around the party] Does any one know what's going on?

Darius : No, so imagine how much worse it was when things were less clear.

Chastity : Phili as in fate, my dear Mr. Snyder. The holy one did not actually come down and deposit [nods towards Darius, with a slight sneer and emphasis] him back on this earth.

Snyder : [With barely concealed contempt] So how did you come back?

Darius : Rather conveniently, my friends the Knights stored some soul sanctuaries in a dear, dear friend of mine. This mob let slip to me on the morning that I died that they had been time travelling [waves a scolding finger at the party] naughty, naughty, which suggested that at least one of the sanctuaries was empty. Add to that the fact that they were unusually evasive, I figured it might be handy to have some insurance, so that if I did die, I'd be directed into the sanctuary. Then it was just a matter of getting my old mate Boddy to point them in the direction of some orbs.

Chastity : Now that we come to mention your death, you were looking extremely beat up just before you loosed that arrow. What had happened to you?

Darius : That's Phili for you, tough but fair. If I broke my side of the agreement he was entitled to turn me into a smear, but I couldn't leave my best friends behind in their time of need, could I? Not after all we've been through together.

Snyder : [Glaring at Darius before turning to Monty] Ah, how refreshing it is to see the party being concerned with due process. I'm sure this is in no small way due to your presence, Monty. I can bring him him back to Asphyxia. I was going to help escort our chief negotiator south, but some of our people didn't turn up. Perhaps, Monty, if you wouldn't mind, could you get your party to bring him South?

Chastity : Chief negotiator? Who's that? And who are they negotiating with, just so that we are clear?

Snyder : With the south! Remember what the other party said, that they knew as little about what started the war as we did. It was almost certainly started by Dangsten and the others.

Alice : But they only appeared months after it started.

Snyder : Okay, well maybe the south did start it, but it was only meant to be a small war, a skirmish, if you will. They are a bit touchy about it, so it's just as well that we got the most diplomatic person around for it.

Chastity : [Cringing slightly] I dread to ask, but where is the negotiator? Who is it?

Snyder : Who? There's only one man it could be! The man who ended the Lukewarm War? The man who single handedly convinced four thousand barbarians to lay down their arms?

[Enter PETER DEADPAN, coming out of a clothes shop, loaded down with materials and such that he's clearly looted from there. He doesn't look at all surprised to see the party, and gives them his usual disgusted look.]

Peter : [Deadpan] Excellent. Just what we need on a complex diplomatic mission.

Chastity : [Face quickly brightens] Oh thank Phili for that. Some sense at last. An appointment to calm the troubled waters ahead with some choice phrase and sentiment. [To Snider] Excellent choice.

Snyder : [Big, enthusiastic smile] I know! If anyone can do it, he can! [Gives Peter two thumbs up, and only gets a sardonic look and rolling of the eyes in return]

Alice : [Turns to the others] This has to be a joke, right?

Austin : [Disdainfully to Alice] Are you kidding? Peter is, well, just fabulous! Who could possibly do the job better than him? [Beams a genuinely happy smile at Alice]

Alice : [Gives a pained look to the others] Anybody?

Stephen : The only way to make sure of both sides being swept away in blood and ruin is by sending him [gestures to Peter] into a negotiation! He's so rude even people from Yew Nork are stunned into silence!

Snyder : Then that'll shut up those southern devils! I suggest you take our carriage, that Misolouine carriage you have would attract too much attention, [leans in confidentially] a lot of the Southern women are large ladies, you know how sensitive they are about this kind of thing.

Alice : Is this true, Chastity?

Chastity : [Glares at Alice] I have no idea how large they are.

Snyder : My God, Monty, you are simply a bastion of good sense, you look after yourself with these scumbags, you hear? [Turns to Peter and gives him a hug, to which Peter's only response is to recoil stiffly]

Alice : [To Darius] So where's Harvey?

Darius : [Taking another smoke] Either dead or trapped in a hell dimension with Dangsten.

Austin : [To Darius] Do you you just make this stuff up, 'hell dimension'? Or what. [Blows some smoke rings]

Darius : [Shrugs] I'm just guessing. If he was killed and didn't end up in a soul sanctuary, what else could have happened?

Chastity : Faern told us the same thing the night Harvey died, remember, it was you - it was, well, remember we decided to see if we could get an orb to see if it would work, after Jusilla told us one of the sanctuaries was occupied.

Alice : But why did Boddy send us here to get the orb? I bet he knew what happened, he always does.

Darius : [Smugly] Why indeed?

Darius : I was kind of planning on heading back to their headquarters and stealing some equipment - I need to meet up with my old pal Boddy.

Alice : [Disgusted face as she folds her arms] To get the Jewel of Arais? And what's that? Some priceless gem you're going to steal from some innocent for your own self serving purposes?

Darius : No, it's a magical jewel that can be used to bring a soul back from a hell dimension.

Alice : [Taken aback] Oh.

Austin : [To Darius] Is it powerful enough to only bring back the Colonel, and not Dangsten?

Darius : It'll only bring back one person, but don't worry, there are enough crazies around to make sure that Dangsten will be back before long.

Monty : Ahem. While some might say that you meet that criteria, may we safely assume that, given your past with Dangsten, that you do indeed intend to return the Colonel to life? Further to that, at what price will this be done?

Darius : No. [Time passes.]

Alice : [With a sigh of frustration] No what?

Darius : No, not at all? I'm going to help get the jewel, which is going ot be fairly tricky, but it's going to take some kind of crazed lunatics to into hell after him.

Snyder : [With a snort of derision] The Jewel of Arais? That doesn't even exist! It's just legend! Anyway, even if it did exist, it is supposed to be beneath Mount Scary, the supposedly scariest place in the realms, which doesn't exist either, and if did, the huge dragon that's supposed to live there would have eaten it, but, of course, we all know that dragons haven't existed for years. What do you say to that, Mister Smart Guy?

Darius : I'll bring you back a dragon scale.

Austin : [To Snyder] You don't get out much do you.

Snyder : [Haughtily to Austin] Hey, I play dominoes every second Tuesday! [Calmly to Monty] I know, but he's a slippery customer.

Darius : It's okay, Monty, don't get your stiff upper lip in a twist, I'll come and find you once we get the imaginary jewel from the nonexistent dragon in the mountain that never was. You crazy kids look after yourselves, you hear? [SNYDER revs up the horses to indicate that he's ready to go, while DARIUS turns to leave.]

Chastity : Goodbye, Mister Darius, I wish we could believe your motives were pure.

Austin : [To Chastity] An absolute waste of a perfectly good wish. [Sighs in a deadpan way. To Darius] Happy hunting.

Darius : [Clips his heels together] Thank you sir, even though you are still my least favourite, you have come up slightly in my estimation. [Straightens up and lights another cheeseratte] [ALICE steps forward and punches DARIUS.]

Darius : [In more surprise than pain] Ow! What the hell was that for? [Takes a drag of the cheeseratte]

Alice : For using us yet again. [Punches him again.]

Darius : Ow! What was [emphasis] that for? [Rubs his jaw and takes another smoke]

Alice : For making Boddy lie to us, we all know he's a lot nicer than you and wouldn't have unless you told him to. [ALICE grabs DARIUS and kisses him almost as passionately as ARAMIS kissed CHASTITY, before letting him go, clearly lost for words.]

Snyder : [Knocking on the window of the carriage] Hey! What was [huge emphasis] that for?

Alice : [Breathes out some of Darius' smoke] Because they're going to succeed in getting the jewel back. [Gives Darius a smile] Nice cheese.

Stephen : [To Alice] And makes you so sure that he'll succeed?

Alice : Faern told us, back at the hotel.

Snyder : [Blows the horn of the carriage] Mr. Darius, please, come on! [Gives a Monty a grave look] Good luck.

Chastity : Yes, let's be off. Time we all went down south to help stop any bloodshed. [Makes herself comfortable in the carriage seat] This is alot more comfortable. [To Snyder] Is it far?

Snyder : Yes. It's about a week's drive.

Rick : So, er, is it okay if I just slope off now?

Austin : [Fake suprise, to Chastity] How far is South? I didn't know you were interested in philosophy.

Chastity : [To Rick] No you may not, you dispicable little man. You've got to face your former boss.

Rick : Face the Bringer? Hey! What about that kangaroo court in front of a bunch of bloodthirsty knights? I thought we agreed on that!

Rick : I'll go, but no prison can hold me, I'm gonna break, I'm gonna spring, and then I'll wreak my terrible revenge! [Breaks into a classic evil maniac laugh]

Darius : [Holding up a Skook Lywalker action figure] Mm, I'm getting peckish.

Rick : [Gives a brief look of horror before coming over all downcast] I'll be good.

Snyder : [To the party] Now, look, you scumbags, you've got a dangerous trip ahead of you, make sure you all come back, otherwise I - [tears up a little, before giving a sniff and hardening his face into a sneer again] otherwise I'll have lots of paperwork to do.

Chastity : Don't worry Mr. Snider. This group is like a lighthouse on a stable rock in these rough seas of deadly evil and bloodshed. Shining a beckon of hope and Phili's love into the darkness. [Breaks into a broad smile] And we've got Peter with us. What could go wrong?

Alice : [Takes a look at Peter's sour expression, before adding, deadpan] God himself can't stop us now.

Austin : [To Monty, whilst chechking his nails] I thought it was Alice's turn to drive?

Alice : So did I!

Darius : [To Snyder, at the other carriage] Shove over, I'll drive.

Snyder : Oh no you won't!

Darius : [Tries to squeeze in] Move over!

Snyder : [Slapping Darius] Get off, you scumbag! [The two deterioate into girlishly slapping each others hands.]

Rick : [Annoyed] Look! I'll drive! You two sit in the back quietly. [Glaring at each other, SNYDER and DARIUS get into the back, with RICK taking the driving seat and heading off.]

Austin : [To Monty, whilst reading the latest copy of the Paris 'New designs' magazine] Risking our future with hasty or haphazard methods is exactly what we do best! I thought that you had been watching us for years!

Alice : [Pained sigh] Fine. Okay Peter, how can I help?

Peter : We've lots of right angles and parallel lines that need drawing. They're always useful in delicate negotiations.

Austin : [To Peter] Genius, sheer genius! [Smiles happily then goes back to his magazine, muttering] The appliance of sicence.

Stephen : [To Peter] So, what are your plans for the negotiations then? Last form Colin #63

Peter : To dazzle them with Alice's encyclopedic knowledge of geometric shapes. [Exit ALL, as the carriage rides into the distance.] [Book IV, Act V, Scene II. The Bedroom. CHASTITY, ALICE and SISTER PURITY are here. PURITY and CHASTITY are wearing standard nun habits, while ALICE is wearing a hugely expensive looking fur coat and an OKO HANEL suit. ALICE looks quite a bit older, at least mid forties now, but still looks quite stylish, although she has gained some weight, particularly around the thighs. CHASTITY is sitting on the bed while ALICE and PURITY are just standing there.]

Alice : And that's all she's said?

Purity : That's all.

Alice : Hm, I haven't heard that for a long time, I always thought it meant nothing. [Peers closely at Chastity] You know, [turns to Purity] we all knew that she was the one most likely to go mad, what with the whole nun thing and all.

Purity : [Mutters a prayer for patience] Of course.

Chastity : [Looks round, obviously somewhat confused. Rubs her eyes and slowly looks round again, stopping a Purity] Sister? [Looks round at Alice] Alice? Is that you? [Looks round the room again] Where am I?

Alice : Of course it's me, Chas! Sister Purify is here too.

Purity : Purity.

Alice : [Glares at Purity] Don't confuse her. [Back to Chastity] What's going on, Purity? I mean, Chastity!

Chastity : [To Alice] We were all in a carriage, heading south to stop the war. How did I get here? [Runs her hand on Alice's coat before examining her face] You look different, dear. I think you need a rest.

Chastity : Ten years? What been going on? [Stands up and tries to look out a window] Where am I? [Turns back. To Purity] What year is this, Sister?

Alice : [Glances sideways at Purity and whispers] She's very crazy, isn't she? [Back to Chastity with a warm smile] No, Chas, I'm fine. [Gently] Of course I look different, it must be almost ten years since we last met. [ALICE and PURITY exchange a worried glance, as CHASTITY sees that she's in a small bedroom in what appears to be the convent at Queens View. There is one small window which overlooks the church.]

Purity : Why, sister, it's 1305. [Enter Austin, wearing a Tusomi Sugozi silk day suit in blue, Blokley shades, Gash Saint-Mullion panda skin shoes and Ely Greenitch dodo skin gloves, looking very wealthy and healthy with a light tan and a cheesearette in a long cheesearette holder]

Austin : Hey Chassers! How it going old girl? You finaly aggreed to allow us to visit then. [To Alice, carefully] Hi Alice, still sore at me because your son bonked my cabin girl? [Chuckles. Sees Purity] Hey! I hope you're just wearing that nun outfit for my fancy dress party tonight. [Wiggles his eyebrows at Purity as he checks her out] Nice to see Phili's tastes have improved.

Purity : Oh, Mr. Giles, please do.

Alice : [Gives Monty a quick glance and nod, looking away from him before she's even finished speaking] Monty.

Alice : Actually [with some venom] Austin, I believe that Harvey was the bonkee. Now, we're hear to help poor mad Chastity, so perhaps you might show a little concern for her.

Chastity : [Looks up] Mr Giles? Austin? [rubs her temple] 1305? The last thing I remember is being on the carriage heading south to meet the Bringer. [To Purity] I really need a cup of tea.

Purity : Of course, Sister. [Exits]

Alice : The Bringer? Sister, that was years ago, that's ancient history.

Stephen : [Opens the door and enters the room, looking grey, old and haggard, wearing a dirty velvet smoking jacket.] Well hello. [To Chastity] I see you are up and about.

Chastity : [To Alice] Not to me. It just like a few moments ago. [Looks round the room] I can't have lost the last 25 years can I? [Gets up and goes to a hand basin, splashes some cold water on her face and looks in the mirror whilst dabbing her face dry]

Stephen : [Puts his finger to his temple and twirls it around] So what's all this about then? Why did you want us here?

Alice : [Does a double take] Stephen? Is that really you? [CHASTITY looks in the mirror, and gives a cry of shock as she sees a horrific looking old lady stare back at her.]

Purity : [Entering the room with the tea] Oh, excuse me! I don't know who left that picture there. [Removes the painting so Chastity can see her reflection, which is marginally less frightening, but shows that she looks very, very old]

Chastity : [After examining her face in the mirror, turns round. After a brief look of confusion she speaks in a definite tone to the assembled group] We need to get to Cachexia, just south of here. We all must go. [Hesitates, continuing a bit less certainly] I just can't remember why.

Alice : Cachexia? Why on earth would we want to go down there? It's way down South, I mean, I know they're our friends now, but that's a pretty long way to go on the whim of a - a - on whim!

Chastity : [Looking in the mirror again]Oh thank Phili, I thought I'd turned in the old Mother Superior. [Takes the cup of tea] Thank you, Sister Purity, most kind. [To the party] I see now that I haven't time traveled here. SO why can't i rmember anything.

Stephen : [Gives a dramatic bow to Alice] In the flesh my dear! In the very flesh! [To Chastity] Impossible sister! I'm far too busy to even think about travelling to Cachexia. I'm in projects up to my armpits and I have actors clamoring over themselves to work with me!

Stephen : [Glares at Alice before turning back to Chastity] So what's the story, are you just pretending you don't remember the last two decades, or are you serious?

Alice : [Helpfully] Because you're crazy?

Purity : Sister Chastity, you've been silent for a few days, just sitting on the bed. The only thing you've said in the whole time was "From within it consumes".

Alice : [Gives a cough of surprise at this, before muttering] It sure smells like you're up to your armpits in something.

Alice : Of course she's serious, she's an old crinkly, they don't have any sense of humour! [Pats Chastity reassuringly before adding patronisingly] Isn't that right, Chastity?

Chastity : [Grumpily brushes Alice's hand off her] "From within it consumes". Do you remember? The Path! That was what Jerome had been saying and writing when we last saw him. [pauses] Or at least the last time I remember seeing him. [Turns to Alice] You must remember Jerome's basement? The photo's? The hundreds of notebooks? [pauses again. Speaking more slowly] The Manikin?

Alice : Oh-kay! Yes, I do remember them, but nothing ever came of that. Jerome disappeared, remember?

Chastity : Only just. He's had 25 years of my blank memory to re-appear in. It must be something to do with him, or at least the Path we were on. Did you mention the Colonel to Austin, just then. Did we get him back?

Alice : [A bit downcast] No, that wasn't Uncle Harvey I was talking about, it was my son Harvey. We did get Uncle Harvey back, but he was never the same, I'm afraid he died a few years ago in an institution.

Alice : I always assumed they were both dead, maybe even killed by the Bringer, after all, it's a bit unlikely that they stayed quiet for twenty five years, isn't it?

Stephen : Maybe not! Maybe they've just been waiting for this moment? Maybe they're already in Cachexia, waiting for us? [Opens his hands high in the hair] The Queens View Cheese Fest Two - Jerome's back, and he's angry. It makes a great story!

Chastity : [Solemnly to Alice] I'm sorry, my dear. I'm glad my memories of him are of the forthright bastion of virtue ex-soldier that we all loved. [To Monty] You could be correct, Mr. Giles. A strange time to resurrect the battle. [Gets up, with a wheeze] But a call one that should answered, none the less.

Stephen : [Gives Monty a cheesy smile] The second greatest story ever told!

Alice : Are you sure Chastity will be able to go down south? You know, what with her being a [whispers, but in her usual loud way, so even people out in the street can hear] criminal?

Alice : In fact, I think we might avoid using your ship altogether!

Austin : [Indignantly to Monty] You mean my yatch, I never sail on any of my ships! [Looks at Chastity] Well, Chastity refused my help last time, but being as efficient as I am, I had already drawn up an exceptionally strong case to have her admonished of all involvement in the crimes with which she was charged. I'm sure that we'll have her name cleared and an official pardon by closing today. [Smoothly opens the door and whispers some instructions to a smartly dressed coachman wearing the Sleaze International Trading insignia, who runs off]

Chastity : [Loudly] Hold on, hold on. What do you mean, criminal? There may well one or two people in here who have given into unlawful acts, but I am not one of them! I am a Nun, a bride of Phili. [To Purity] Tell them, sister. Please.

Austin : [To Chastity] The chain of rehabilitation centers you set up turned out to be brothels, you as the founder of the 'Chastity Browne Clinics' were held responsible.

Chastity : [Coughing and spluttering] What? Me? Brothels? Founder? Guilty? [Turns to Purity, in an almost sobbing, pleading voice] Sister?

Purity : I'm sorry, Sister, it's true. You placed too much trust in other people, who abused all the good work that you had done.

Stephen : It was the scandal of the decade! You -

Alice : [Steps in front of Stephen] Look, I think someone with some gentle tact is needed here. [Turns to Chastity] It's true Sister, you did six years in the big house, for running a brothel, but we know you're innocent, [to the others] don't we?

Stephen : Yeah, sure.

Chastity : [Stands up unsteadily] You'll have to excuse me for a second. [Goes over the hand basin, wipes the tear stains from her face whilst sniffling, before blowing her nose extremely loudly on the face cloth and dropping it basin.] Right then! [Turns round, making a point of standing up straight, walking over to her tea and downing the remaining half cup. To the group] I do believe Phili has brought us back together for a reason. There is evil out there that only a party of experienced veterans such as ourselves can handle.

Alice : [Rubs Chastity's elbow reassuringly] Poor confused Chastity, I'm not a veterenarian, I'm a mathematician.

Stephen : [Looking around] Uh, no offence, but when was the last time anyone here even used a weapon? Is there anyone else we should bring?

Austin : [To Stephen] Oh, I still practice the finer arts of combat. [Puls ls a swanky looking dagger and a sling from his jacket, then puts them away checking to see that no one is looking] I've been teaching my kids too.

Stephen : Why don't we get some of the Knights to bring us down?

Chastity : It would seem to me that ideally we would have the younger versions of ourselves to undertake this mission.

Chastity : Themselves maybe! [Cringes at the thought of Darius's smug grin]

Alice : Well, yes, Chastity, that would be ideal, but how would we do that? [Looks at Monty] Sounds like the Knights have changed a lot in the last twenty years, back in our day, they believed that the most appropriate use of their time was misappropriation. [Gets an idea] What about Darius and Boddy? Could they help?

Alice : What? Don't you remember how they were the ones who helped get Harvey back?

Chastity : I remember Darius, Mr. Snyder and that little rodent Rick leaving us, but that's it. I've already said that I don't remember anything before that.

Alice : So you don't remember what happened at my wedding?

Chastity : No. Did you wear white?

Alice : [Highly insulted] What kind of question is that? Of course I did! Last Neutronium Dragon #05.02.045

Austin : [To Monty] Indeed, on of the most [pauses] complicated cases ever seen. [Some one knocks on the door, five times with an intentional rythm]

Austin : Aah, for me [Opens the door and Austins footman whispers a few appologetic looking sentences to Austin. Austin closes the door and comes back into the room] Well, that is a shame. No go on the pardon I'm afraid old Chassers, your case was just too high profile. You would be much better off pretending to be someone else when we leave, no point in opening old wounds, the public and the press would have a field day and we don't want that all over again.

Alice : [To Monty] What false pretences? People there pretending to be my friends? I don't think you're really in any position to be complaining about false pretences with that awful trashy daughter of yours throwing herself at any new man she lays her eyes on.

Purity : Actually, Mr. Sleaze, she has been living here under an assumed name for the last few months. Delia Smythe.

Stephen : But surely she'll be recognised out on the street, will she not! I mean, even if she isn't, a high profile group such as ourselves will definitely draw the attention of every member of the public we pass! [Clicks his fingers] I know a really good make up artist we can visit and alter our appearance

Alice : Pity you didn't get them to do something to you before you came here, Stephen! I don't think it's going to be a problem, a lot of time has passed, most of you won't be recognised. [Puts on a pair a shades] There, now I won't be recognised either, see? [Takes a step forward and accidently steps on Chastity's foot]

Alice : [Slips her shades down her nose and looks over the top] Action? Yes, you know all about that, Monty.

Chastity : Thank you for your concern, Mr. Giles. With the grace of Phili I shall manage. With the assembled group here I seem to be mentally stable.

Alice : [Glaring at Monty] A lot more stable than certain people's daughters!

Stephen : Do we have to take the most direct route south? That'll mean we have to go through Sclerotia and, well, after what happened there the last time, well.. [tails off]

Austin : One of my unmarked carriages is waiting ready for us outside, whenever we are ready. [To Stephen] We may want to go via Sclerotia as we may find out some relevant information there.

Chastity : [To Purity] Thank you for your kindness, Sister, you are indeed an asset to the order. Now if you could just show me where any of my belongings are, I'll be away.

Purity : Er, actually, Sister, you don't have any belongings, the court took them all.

Alice : You mean, she only owns the clothes on her back?

Purity : Strictly speaking, they belong to the convent.

Chastity : It's maybe better if I wear a habit anyway, as I'm trying move incognito, but thank you. [Looks round the group] Could anyone see there way to donate some clothes or finance the purchase of some appropriate attire.

Austin : [Brightens up] Clothes! Now there's something I can certainly help you with [Quickly pops over to the door, opens it and whispers something quickly to his footman. To Chastity] The finest habit money can buy will be yours shortly!

Alice : Er, maybe Austin could? You're welcome to borrow my lovely coat, and I'm sure it doesn't matter that it suits me better.

Chastity : Thank you, dear, but I am trying to go incognito so I don't want to look like an elderly madam given the unjust and public stories I have apparently been subjected to.

Alice : Of course, Chastity. [The party leave the convent, with CHASTITY distinctly unsteady on her feet. Outside the convent are a number of flashy carriages, which clearly belong to various party members, as well an unmarked plain carriage which is just pulling up, being driven by AUSTIN's CHAUFFEUR.]

Stephen : [Looking at one of the carriages which is parked near a large statue of Peter Deadpan] Wow, a Sexus 6X6, is that yours Alice? I'm surprised you haven't crashed it yet. [Gives a polite nod to the statue] Peter.

Alice : No, I haven't, since the kids were born, P.G. doesn't like me - I mean, hey! Of course I haven't, I've got a chauffeur now!

Chastity : [Goes over to the statue of Peter. Sighs] What a guy. Most deserving of this statue.[Pats the foot of the statue and heads over to Austin's carriage. to Alice] What about your family, dear. Aren't you enjoying the marvellous experience of motherhood?

Alice : Of course, Chastity, I love it! Although, I must admit, little Chastity is a bit of a terror. [Looks at the statue too] Poor old Peter, it must be almost twenty five years to the day since he died.

Chastity : [Shocked] Don't tell me he got killed during his negotiations with the south? [Shakes her head in sad amazement] Who would kill him?

Alice : The Bringer killed him in Sclerotia, we were ambushed just on the south side of the town. It's because of him that we're all alive today. [Gestures at what appears to be a campsite outside the town] The anniversary of his death is coming up, every year, thousands of people, particularly women, turn up here to mourn him.

Chastity : [Nodding] As so they all should. A great, great loss. [Looks back mournfully at the statue before turning to the carriage] Can someone please be so kind as to help me up.

Austin : [To the footman on his carriage] Come on Dave, look lively, give Sister Chastity a hand into the carriage!

[Dave the footman gives Chastity a hand in to the carriage, folds down the steps etc, then nips round the back of the carriage and brings back what looks like an entire rail of Chasitity sized clothes, including a nun's habit, etreemely well made from extreemely chaste and pure looking cloth]

Austin : [To Dave the chauffeur] We'll be heading south, I'll give you the exact route once we are underway. [Coughs a little smokers cough]

Stephen : I'll help you, Sister. [Awkwardly starts trying to shove Chastity in] [A group of young teenage girls approach.] Teen #1 : [To Alice] Can I have your autograph?

Alice : [Good natured smile] Of course. [Signs] You can have your picture taken with me too, if you like. Teen #2 : [Looks at the autograph] I told you she wasn't Spritney Beers!

Alice : [In dismay as Teen #1 throws the autograph away] Hey! [Glares at the others] I hate when that happens, I don't look at all like her. [Gets in grumbling] Damned has been, alcoholic, drug addled trailer trash!

Stephen : [Following Chastity in] Yes, and Spritney is so clean after drying out and launching her come back, I don't know how they got you mixed up!

Alice : You know what would make this just like old times, if I drove!

Chastity : [To Dave] Thank you. [To Austin] That's a nasty cough. I take it you've given up those nasty cheeserettes. [Settles down in her seat, putting a pleasant plaid blanket over her lap.

Alice : Actually, Chas, it's probably because he's doing too much! Of course, since the kids came along I never smoke it. [Takes out a cheeseratte and lights it] Well, not in front of them, anyway! [Book IV, Act V, Scene III. The Carriage. CHASTITY, AUSTIN, ALICE, MONTY and STEPHEN are here, with MONTY in the driver's seat. There is a lot of tension in the air, and worried looks on everyone's faces.]

Alice : [Brushing down her Aural Lashely dress, worriedly, before speaking to Chastity] Er, what does that mean, Chastity?

Austin : [Checking the cuff of his Eve Stirwin baby albino rino skin jacket. To Chastity] What consumes? [To Alice] I think we've lost her again.

Alice : Not that we ever really had her! I'm starting to get sick of hearing that phrase.

Stephen : [Lifts his enormous sunglasses from his eyes, and brushes dust from his bright orange suit] Honestly, who is that womans scriptwriter! From within it consumes, from within it consumes! I think the sister will have to be left out of my sequel!

Alice : I think we should all be left out of your sequel.

Chastity : [Looks round the group slowly, pausing at each party member looking them up and down. Speaking slowly and with slight confusion] Did you feel that? A jolt? [Rubs her forehead and looks out the carriage] Where are we going? [Turns back to the party slowly looking at what she's wearing and then looking round the party slowly again] Something strange is going on again.

Alice : Well, yes, but it seems a little less strange now, Chastity, what's going on?

Chastity : I don't know. [Wipes her brow with her sleeve] I was just travelling in a carriage like this with everyone, [pauses] but we were all alot older. We had to travel to Cachexia, but I don't know why. [pauses] I think it had something to do the the path. [Looks round again] What year is this?

Chastity : [Looks out the back of the carriage] But I've just left the convent [emphasis] twenty-five years after the Bringer was defeated. I don't remember anything that has happened since we went to meet the Bringer and stop the war with Peter as negotiator. [To Alice] You were married. And what of your children?

Alice : Children? [Laughs] I don't have any children! And I don't think I ever will - can you imagine me as a mother? [Everyone roars with laughter.]

Alice : [Annoyed] Hey! You didn't have to laugh that much!

Stephen : How much do you remember, Chas? Do you remember the ambush? Peter snuffing it?

Chastity : [Clearly a bit upset] Please! Do not refer to Peter's sad demise with a phrase so callous as "snuffing it". For your information I have been told pf the ambush including Peter's death, but I remember not a thing regarding the events themselves. I have no memories of the last ten years at all. [To Alice] Not even of your wedding, apparently.

Austin : [To Chastity] You don't happend to have a portable sundial do you?

Chastity : No, I'm afraid not. [Looks at herself in some chrome on the carriage] I'm not physically time travelling, but it appears that my conscience self is moving from one instance of myself to another. Hence, to me, it only seems like an hour ago since we left with Peter to the negotiations. [Looks out the front of the carriage] Where are we going?

Austin : [To Monty] I rather think that if we don't all stay together, things might get alot worse for all of us. "From within it consumes" were the last words of Faern, and we should really find out what this is about, before we all suffer the same fate. [Ponders] It seems that time might be runnning out for Chastity, quite litterally.

Chastity : I would think that we should be staying together. If something is manifesting itself though me, it may be our best link. [Pauses] Does anyone know what I was doing recently before I seem to have have this funny turn?

Alice : That's right, the brainwashing centres for young ladies. We were on the way to Cachexia - because you told us to go there. In fact, the only thing you've said other than the thing about consumption was that we had to go there.

Chastity : I know this may seem a little strange, but I think we may be all going back in time, in a sort of way. When you all came to see me in the convent hospotal area, chronologically twenty five years from Pater's death, it was agreed that we were in no shape to take on another battle against evil, but we left all the same. Suddenly we still seem to be on the same mission but it is fifteen years earlier. I wonder if...[trails off thoughtfully]

Austin : [To Chastity] You wonder if what, Sister? [Pauses] Chastity? [Austin raises an eyebrow momentarily at Chastity, then gets a cheesearette from a silver holder and lights up, blowing some smokerings]

Chastity : [Monetarily distracted, looks up at Austin] Mmm? [Points to the lit chesserette] You should really stop smoking those. You'll get an awful cough one day.

Alice : [Lighting her own cheeseratte off Austin] Don't be such a square, Chastity, I know I'm never going to give up. [Takes a smoke] Anyway, it sounds like you're the one who's been smoking too much cheese. I don't have any memory of fifteen years in the future.

Stephen : Yes, Sister, we're on the edge of our seats, bristling with antici - [ALICE leans forward more to hear him and falls off her seat.]

Stephen : -pation!

Austin : [Looks at his cheesearette, then at Chastity, and continues smoking] You're probably right about that, but then again, I [Pauses] Wait a moment, if we can't change the future, [emphasis] and we know that we live atleast another fifteen years, doesn't that make us kind of immortal, in a roundabout kind of way, until then at least?

Alice : That's true, remember all that stuff back when we killed Dangsten, we tried to change the future then - of course, relative to where we were then it was our past. [Draws her sword and turns to Austin with a smile, indicating Stephen with her eyes] Wanna put it to the test?

Chastity : I don't think it really does to tempt fate. [To Monty] It's all very confusing, Mr. Giles. I was just thinking aloud. Something to do with going back in time as we approach the point at which I remember leaving to see the Bringer. Of course, if this is true, then I know when and where Peter will die and won't be able to change it, as we can't change the future. [Puts her head in her hands with distress]

Stephen : How do we know that you really have seen the future? Maybe that was just a figment of your imagination? Maybe [gasp] we're just figments of your imagination and you're still in the original carriage?

Alice : [Rolls her eyes] I wish you were a figment of my imagination.

Stephen : Unlikely that you'd ever be able to think of something like this.

Alice : [Looks Stephen up and down] True.

Chastity : Well only time will tell.

Alice : [Sitting back down as Monty moves on, taking the direction Chastity originally suggested] Are you sure? All the evidence suggests otherwise! [The party move on a bit, only for MONTY to slow the carriage down. The party can see that there is a man nailing a sign to a huge box that takes up about a third of the road, and is at least as long as the carriage. The man has his back to the party, and is blocking their view of the sign.]

Alice : Hey! What's going on, driver?

Chastity : [Calling out to the man] Excuse me, what are you doing?

Stephen : [Looks at the sign as they pass] With a bit of luck it's advertising a rest stop up ahead! I could murder a babysham! [The man, ANDY MANN, turns to the carriage, and is now far enough out to make it virtually impossible for the carraige to fit through without hitting him.]

Andy : [To Chastity] Putting up a sign.

Alice : [Reading the sign] Rood Nawows?

Andy : [Annoyed] It says Road Narrows!

Alice : Well, that really looks like a w.

Andy : [Looks at the large box, which is about three foot square] About three feet narrower for about three feet.

Austin : This man is an imbecile.

Chastity : Whats in the box that always blocks.

Andy : [Puzzled] Nothing, it's a box.

Andy : [Hands on hips and indignant] It most certainly is not scenery! It's there to hold the sign!

Andy : [Thunderously angry] What? [Thinks for a moment and then breaks into a huge, self conscious smile] Well, I suppose that would be okay. [ALICE stands up to take the photo as ANDY stands by the sign, only for MONTY to shoot through the gap.]

Alice : [Almost falling] Hey! Hold it steady!

Chastity : [Looking back] I don't think he's going to be very happy.

Andy : Hey! What about my picture? [The carriage is just coming up to Sclerotia, and the party can see that there are plenty of people milling about, although there is clearly some sort of commotion going on in the middle of the town where there is a large brightly coloured tent and a crowd of about fifty or sixty people.]

Alice : That was just mean, Monty. You would never have done that in the old days!

Austin : Agreed. [Gives a polite golf clap] Well done, old chap.

Chastity : Best slow down a bit, Mr. Giles. We don't want a general carnage as you plough into the crowd. Let's stop and see what all the fuss is about.

Alice : Circus? [Face grows dark] There'd better not be any clowns! [ANDY is running after the carriage, panting and out of breath.]

Andy : Hey! [Puff] Where's my picture?

Austin : [Leans towards the carriage window. To Andy] Who are you? [Sits back down before Andy can answer, flicking some ash out of the window]

Andy : I'm Andy Mann the handy man, and I've got me a really good plan, 'cause when I'm my van, I fix and mend things, and generally look after big machines and stuff and put up signs. Here's my card.

Alice : [Taking the card and seeing that its tagline is exactly what Andy just said] Punchy.

Stephen : Punchy Mann? Is that his brother or something?

Andy : No, Punchy's my wife.

Andy : That's not a [big smile as Alice takes his photo] a circus tent!

Austin : [Looks out of the carriage, glancing at Andy then the tent. To the party] What's that man still here for? Does he want money or something? [To Andy] If it's not a circus tent then what kind of tent is it?

Andy : It's a [does pseudo myterious waving of his hands in front of him] a fortune telling tent.

Alice : What? A tent that can tell your fortune? Man, that's way better than the chair that could do dynamic non-linear equations!

Stephen : Heeey! Good idea, Monts. Well, Sister, what is it? How many more Oscats will adorn my mantelpiece? No, don't say! Everyone must guess. Me first! [Closes his eyes and thinks hard] Oh! Oh! Five! [Points at Alice] Your turn, Alice, how many Oscats do you think I'll get?

Alice : [Looks passed Stephen at the others] I don't have to answer that, do I?

Alice : What about the tent? Surely we should ask that a question?

Andy : [Waving at the party] Okay, all huddle up, I'll take your photo now.

Alice : We could be quick and focused, you know, intense?

Andy : [Pointing his camera at the party] Can we all just huddle up a little please? Big smiles!

Austin : Well, I think we should investigate this anomaly [ Gets out of the carriage and wanders over to the fortune teller's tent and peeps in or read any signs there may be there]

Alice : [Annoyed with Monty] Don't get into such a flap about it.

[Everyone turns to ANDY with big smiles and he takes a photograph, just as AUSTIN starts to get off the carriage.]

Andy : Beautiful! Beautiful! [To Austin] I want more steaming erotic smouldering looks from you, back up on the carriage my man, make the camera want you! [To Chastity] A more stern and caustic look would be perfect you my dear and [to Stephen] I want surprise from you, my friend, mouth opening monocle popping surprise, [turns his gaze on Monty] I sense an animal within, ruffle that hair, bare those teeth and give me anger. Scare the camera!

Alice : [After a short pause] What about me?

Andy : Ah, just get your shirt off and you'll be fine.

Austin : [Completely ignores Andy and heads over to the tent] "Monocle popping suprise"? Sounds most unplesant.

Andy : [Following Austin] Oh yeah, baby, disdain, oh yeah, you despise the camera, you look down on it! [A man, TREVOR TCHAIKOVSKY, comes out of the tent as AUSTIN approaches, and glares and ANDY, grabbing the camera from him.]

Andy : Hey! My camera!

Trevor : Is my camera now!

Trevor : [Waving the party towards him] Friends! You come in, I make special deal for you today. Fortune telling, is normally one gold piece each, for you, friends, I make special price, five for all of you. Or you like camera? [Holds up Andy's camera] I make special price for you.

Stephen : No thanks, but I must admit, this fortune telling lark could be a bit of a laugh! Obviously my own fortune is full of Oscats, parties, accolades and plaudits. A life of comfort and great company, life time achievement awards and contributions to various charities.

Trevor : Yes, yes, my friend. You get good fortune today! First in tent only get good news!

Chastity : This sort of tourist trap is just a con. Seeing into the future indeed. People have been burned at the stake for blasphemy and witchcraft for claiming less!

Alice : Too right, Chas! Remember that crazy lady who claimed she was in the future just a while ago? [Looks at Chastity] Oh.

Trevor : [To Chastity] No, no, my friend, is no tourist trap. Is real thing. First three customers get free lucky gypsy charm!

Austin : [Looks at Trevor, wincing at Trevor's cheesy accent] Sigh! I don't know why I bother [Checks his nails briefly, then gets back into the carriage and lights up a cheesearette. To Trevor] Let me see one of these 'lucky' charms.

Stephen : A free lucky gypsy charm? And what would that be? A dag?

Trevor : [Holds up another charm he's wearing around his neck, which is similar to the pig, but is a cock] Big cock! Is very lucky! [Turns to Stephen] No, no, my friend, no dag lucky charms, but I have lots of dags! You want to eat? Or maybe pet? I give you free piece of string!

Trevor : Yes, yes, my friend. [Holds up a small golden pig that his hanging around his neck, which is about an inch long, that is covered in tiny jewels. Even from this distance the gold and jewels are clearly fake.]

Trevor : This is charm worn by grandfather when he slay many dragons. Is yours now! Is yours when go in tent.

Alice : [Gushing] Isn't it just gorgeous? And a pig! Just perfect for you Austin. [Smiles at Trevor] What have you got for me?

Trevor : I have big cock for you.

Alice : [Shocked] Huh?

Chastity : I'm sure she'd only need it grasp it in her hand for that. Maybe if she polished this man's jewels she'd get a better result.

Stephen : Er, thanks but no thanks. Well Alice, are you going to bite on the big lucky cock to see if it's real?

Trevor : Come! Come my friends, I make special price for you, just four gold pieces for five of you, and little dog for lovely lady. [Claps Stephen on the bag]

Alice : I thought you might prefer to stick it up your - [cuts herself off] No, it's okay, Stephen, you can test it. I'm sure you're familiar enough with them.

Chastity : If for no other reason than to discourage us from repeating the experience in the future, yes. Lets take this man up on his offer. [pauses] And to get the camera back.

Stephen : [Moves his bag away and checks to make sure the contents are untouched. To the others] Well, what do you think? Worth a try?

Monty : I think this is chicanery of the worst kind. They are preying on the weak of mind. Let us return to our mission.

Alice : [Almost before Monty is finished speaking] Let's do it!

Stephen : [Claps his hands together] Okay, we'll do it, but only on the condition that you keep your dogs to yourself!

Andy : Yeah! Let's go for it!

Trevor : Yes, I make special price for you, my friend. Top quality camera. New from Pajan this morning. You like dogs? I make you special price on my son's favourite. Four gold pieces to enter tent.

Trevor : Four gold pieces.

Alice : I'll pay. [Accidently hands him five] Oops, I gave you too much.

Trevor : [Pocketing the five] Have no change. Enter now. [Pulls back the tent flap]

Alice : But they were five seperate pieces!

Trevor : [Annoyed] Have no change! [Enter the party into the tent, but TREVOR stops ANDY from going in.]

Andy : Hey! I'm with them!

Trevor : For you, two gold pieces. Or would you like buy camera? I make you special price!

Stephen : Some fortune teller! [Sighs] We do.

[Book IV, Act V, Scene IV. The Fortune Telling Tent. AUSTIN, ALICE, CHASTITY, MONTY and STEPHEN have just entered, pausing for a moment to rescue ALICE from being tangled up in the hanging beads near the entrance. The tent is done up in the cheesiest of gypsy styles, and is very over done, and absolutely reeks of incense. Sitting at a table in front of a crystal ball is SHARON SHOSTAKOVICH. A dark and sultry, if someone slutty, looking woman. She looks up at the party.]

Sharon : Who seeks my counsel?

Stephen : What! We just gave the other guy five gold pieces!

Sharon : [Holds out her hand] One gold piece each.

Sharon : What guy? What are you talking about?

Monty : Look, Madam, we have already paid, now please do whatever it is you do!

Sharon : OKay, okay! Sit down, and join hands.

[The party each sit on small uncomfortable stools, holding hands in the order SHARON, CHASTITY, AUSTIN, MONTY, ALICE, STEPHEN and back to SHARON.]

Sharon : Now, let me concentrate. [Closes her eyes, only to give a cry of pain and open them again, now bleeding from the nose] Oh my God!

Alice : [Excited] Is it something good?

Stephen : Well, not quite the You Will Meet A Dark Stranger I was expecting! [To Sharon] Are you alright? Hold your head back to stem the flow!

Sharon : [Holding her nose] I see death and destruction for you on the other side of Sclerotia! One of you will die? Which of you is Peter? [Looks around slowly and stops at Chastity] It's you, isn't it? I sense something strange about you.

Alice : [Sigh] What kind of fortune telling is that? It happened years ago!

Chastity : [To Sharon] I am not Peter. [To Alice] Perhaps she means that I have yet to experience Peter's death. Fortune Tellers usually claim to connect on a personal or emotional level, not actual events, otherwise you'd see them down the races putting on unlikely accumulators. The meeting tall dark stranger prediction is usually more centralised round who is being met, not the actual meeting. I have no recollection of Peter's death. [To Sharon] Tell us more.

Sharon : You are a special group, but full of contradictions, there is something very wrong about you, but also very right, you should be here and you shouldn't! You are on the side of light but bring great darkness! [A short period of time passes.]

Alice : You want to try and vague that up a little for us?

Sharon : [Points at Alice] You should be the one who is most out of place, but most necessary, but it is not, it is her! [Points at Chastity]

Chastity : [Rubing her forehead] The most worrying thing is that this is the most sense I've made of anything in the last few hours. [To Sharon] We know all this already. can you tell us more.

Sharon : I know that from within it consumes, and that Phili chose his servants well, no one would ever guess that he would use [somewhat distastefully] people like you.

Chastity : [Recoils away from the table and Sharon as if stung] What do you know about that phrase "From within it consumes"

Sharon : [Rubs her forehead with her hand] I don't know - I sense that a terrible evil, unlike anything that has come before it, is coming. It is trapped at the moment, confined, but will not stay so.

Austin : Both I expect, and each and every one of us.

Sharon : I am referring to the very world itself! To what was once pure! [Stands up, clearly terrified, and with tears in her eyes, shouting] From within it consumes! [Enter TREVOR.]

Trevor : Hey, time is up. You want extension? I make special price for you.

Chastity : [Glancing worriedly at Sharon. To Trevor] I don't think so. It's all very dramatic, but not particularly educational.

Sharon : [Collapses theatrically back into her chair, burying her hands on the table] You can stop it, [clearly talking to the party] you can stop it, because no one would believe that people like would be chosen!

Trevor : [Now with a mangy looking mongrel dog that he's holding onto with a piece of string] Hey! You no go without dog, dog is good! You like to eat? He has no fat. You like pet? He full of fun. [Playfully sratches the dog behind the ear, only to be growled at in return]

Alice : Well, I don't understand that last sentiment, what the hell is that supposed to mean?

Sharon : I see that already twelve of you have been called, and what have we? A thief, a liar, no less than three murderers, a rapist, one who has taken the dark path, one who died before she could darken her soul like the rest of you, one powerless hypocrite and one, one so full of apathy that he will destroy the one thing really wants, while the last is so twisted with jealousy that she knows the true meaning of being consumed from within.

Austin : [To Sharon] Do you have any information that may be of help to us in stopping IT?

Sharon : You need to find the emporer, you will need him to protect you.

Alice : [Thinking for a moment] That's only eleven, who's the - I mean, [a little hopefully] am I the only one without a [finger quotes] dark past?

Sharon : Yes.

Alice : Yay!

Sharon : You have a dark future.

Chastity : [Gloomily] She's not the only one. [To Sharon] Who is this emporer you speak of?

Sharon : [Panting heavily] No more, I can't see any more.

Trevor : Fortune telling is over! Take dog and go!

Chastity : Come on Alice.

Austin : [To the party] The Emperor sounds like the tarot cards again. Did we see the emperor on one of them? [Ponders. Then to Trevor] We don't want your dog, we're trying to save the world for Philli's sake!

Stephen : [To Trevor] Mind you, I'll give you a good price for that dog. I'll give you a friend price for him. Five gold pieces and he's yours! It's a deal, it's a steal, it's the dog sale of the century!

Trevor : [Indignantly] Is not up to you who keep pet! Is my pet! Is not for sale! You Northerners think you can buy everything! I piss on you! I cut your heads off and piss in the holes! I give heads to my friends, and they piss in them too!

Sharon : [Clutching her head in apparant pain] There's more! There's more! [Starts writing on a piece of paper]

Trevor : [Looks at Sharon for a second before turning the party with a big smile] You want piece of paper my friends? I give you special price!

Austin : [To Trevor] If we don't stop this evil that 'from within it consumes', you wont need any money, so how's about a deal, you give us the paper now for free, and if we save the world we'll come back and pay you double! How does that sound? [Ponders, distantly for a moment] Has anyone heard of a town or place called 'Within'?

Trevor : No! Is no deal! I give you friend price, three gold pieces!

Chastity : Oh, for heaven's sake, Austin, just pay the man!

Austin : [Laughs at Trevor, turns away and takes a few paces away. To Chastity] Why don't you pay him?

Chastity : Oh, for heaven's sake! I see you don't change much, Mr. Sleaze. [Fishes out some money and gives it to Trevor]

Trevor : Excellent! Excellent! You make good deal, my friend. You like dog? I give you dog free!

Chastity : The drawing will do just fine. [Takes it from Sharon and looks at it for a moment] Looks like something Alice might come up with. [Holds it out to the party] [The drawing is of a number of stick figures, all in a row.]

Alice : [Examining the picture] Hm, yes, I see what you mean. [Thinks more] Hey! What's that supposed to mean?

Austin : [Considers the drawing] Looks like semaphore to me, let me see if I can remember the codes [Muses over the paper]

Alice : What's semaphore? The one with the flags? There don't seem to be too many of them holding flags.

Austin : [To Alice] Well, flags or lack of flags, I don't recognise the code whatever it is. Maybe it's a correocgraphy for some cheerleaders [Looks hopefully at Sharon. To the others] Perhaps it would be best if Sharon came with us, to war us of danger and tell us of any further insights that she may have? [Raises a questioning eyebrow at Sharon] Fancy an adventure?

Sharon : [Looking up, clearly very shaken and looking very pale] Please, just leave me alone..

Trevor : [Steps in front of her with a big smile] Friends! You need to save world! I make you good price! We have own caravan, sleep many! We come, yes, Sharon?

Sharon : No!

Trevor : [Laughs] She make joke!

Austin : [Laughs. To Trevor] No, I think it's you that 'make joke'. The adventure offer was made to Sharon, not you, and she has declined, probably very wisely. [To Sharon] Thank you for your help. [To the party] Lets get a move on then [Stars walking towards the carriage]

Chastity : I must say, I find this all very disturbing. She knew that something strange is going on - the way she mentioned Peter's death as though it hasn't happened yet, that nonsense about people having dark pasts, and those figures.

Alice : [Getting into the carriage] Yeah, I mean to ask you lot about that. [Checks her notebook and reads out] A thief, a liar, no less than three murderers, a rapist, one who has taken the dark path, one who died before she could darken her soul like the rest of you, one powerless hypocrite and one, one so full of apathy that he will destroy the one thing really wants, while the last is so twisted with jealousy that she knows the true meaning of being consumed from within. What do you make of that?

Stephen : Well, the one who died is probably old Immac, after all, she is dead, and she was a she, wasn't she?

Austin : [Noting down the cryptogram in his note book and trying to decipher it. To Stephen] Yes she was a she. I expect that it was Trindle that 'has taken the dark path', and being the thief doesn't sound to bad compared to the rest, [Gives the others a look over] Well, it may well be important that we all confess to which one of these labels fits us, it could be critical in deciphering this mystery. [To Monty] Are you feeling apathetic? [To Stephen] Maybe that's you. [Ponders biting the end of his pen.]

Alice : She didn't exactly say the word thief as though it was a good thing, Austin, so maybe it isn't your profession that she was referring to, but something awful you stole in your past? [Clearly building up to something] Like -

Chastity : [Interrupting] Like stealing from a church! Mr. Giles, I'm not sure it is such a wise thing to tell you all about your futures, but well, it's not like you all turn out to be criminals or anything. [Nervous laugh]

Austin : [To Monty] Good. [Looks at his note pad] Well, assuming that the stick men with the empty box in their hands as spaces, the best phrase I can find is "Heart of the Beast", the others seem much less likley "Value in Eva false", is one, but we have not encountered Eva in some time.[Ponders] So, "Heart of the Beast", "From within it consumes", Trindle is the "dark path", Sister Immaculata who "died pure", Sister Chastity "twisted with jealousy", [Nods] fits pretty well, myself, the "theif", Clint, well murder or rape? [Looks at the others] Maybe Clint was the pure one? [Shakes his head, closes his note book, looking round the others] So, as you can see this would be much easier if each of us told the others which one they suspect refers to themselves. [Folds his arms, and checks his nails] Any such suggestions will of course be held in the strictest of confidence, never to be mentioned outside of this carriage, aggreed?

Stephen : Perhaps she was looking into our future, and at the moment, none of the descriptions apply to us, because we haven't yet done whatever it is we end up doing to warrant those descriptions.

Alice : [Angrily to Austin] Clint was certainly not a rapist! How dare you! [Turns to Stephen] She did say it was in your past, remember? She said I was the only one who didn't have a dark past.

Chastity : I'm not sure, Monty. [Squints to read Alice's atrocious handwriting] She did suggest that the person who died and the person who was twisted with jealousy were female. [Thinks] Three murderers? Surely we've all, well, killed, haven't we?

Alice : Yes, but that was always self defence. Except for that guy Rick, but that probably didn't count. [Looks at Austin] Heart of the beast? How do you make that out?

Chastity : Mr. Stump could fall under numerous categories, rapist after drugging Alice and having his way with her [gives Alice's a sympathetic rub of the shoulder], consumed with jealously, thief, murderer, scoundrel, unwashed sexual deviant, liar. [Looks round at Trevor and Sharon] Anyway, I don't thins is quite the correct time of be openly debating labels thrown at the group.

Alice : It's okay, Chas, they're far enough away from the carriage. You could be right about Stump, and he probably isn't the jealous one, seeing as how he isn't a girl and all.

Austin : [To Alice] In reference to which 'label' applies to Clint I was merely illustrating the difficulty in assigning these labels to the present party. Since our late lamented friend Clint is deceased, it is impossible for him to tell us which lable may aplpie to him, thereby I illustrated the importance of each of us, present and alive, owning up to one of the labels. [To decipher the code, as I have already said, assuming that the stick men holding the empty boxes are 'spaces' between words, then there is a three letter word in the phrase, and it is most likely that that word is "the", then simply substituting the corresponding letters for these three letters we can see what the phrase could be, a bit like a game of hang man. "The heart of the Beast" is one of many possibilities. Shows Alice his notes. To Chastity] When is a good time to talk about this, if not now?

Chastity : [To Austin] As long as non party members are out of earshot it is fine. With the responsibilities put bestowed upon us it doesn't do to air our dirty laundry in public.

Austin : [To Chastity] But all non party members are out of earshot. [To Monty] Even if these labels are the worst view of each of us, they tell us something about what we are doing, perhaps, related to the tarot cards, the 'Emperor', the stick message, "Heart of the beast" or "from withing it consumes", or the path and the countdaown from 180? Who knows [Lights us a cheesearette, sighing] Lots of clues, not much sleuthing. [To Monty] You're the party sleuth, what do you reckon, you've been watching us for years! Laat from Alfred #051

Chastity : The Emporer card has the image of Harvey on it. [To Stephen] Do you still have the card from the safe?

Stephen : No, I gave it to Alice for safe keeping. [Sees the shocked look of the others.]

Stephen : [Defensively] She said that she would lock it in her family's safe, the place that kept those jewels you used before secure for hundreds of years!

Alice : [Holds out all the cards] And here they are. [Looks at Austin's notes] Fair enough, what are the other possibilities? Could it be an "and" instead of a "the"?

Austin : [To Alice] Well, there are of course many other three letter words that could be substituted, but "and" makes no sense at all, in fact, I tried over fifteen other three letter words and none of them give any sensible permutations.

Alice : Not to mention the nature of our earlier dealings with her! That sounds about right, and the person who died is probably Immaculata. What do you say, Monty? Are you a powerless hypocrite?

Austin : [To Alice] Well, there are of course many other three letter words that could be substituted, but "and" makes no sense at all, in fact, I tried over fifteen other three letter words and none of them give any sensible permutations.

Alice : Not to mention the nature of our earlier dealings with her! That sounds about right, and the person who died is probably Immaculata. What do you say, Monty? Are you a powerless hypocrite?

Alice : Okay, fair enough, but what beast? [Rubs her eyes] There's a lot of information coming at us here, maybe we should stop somewhere for the night. We're just approaching the place where Peter died, so let's either stop here or get the hell away from it as fast as possible.

Austin : Well, this is of course, a 'camper' carriage, the side folds out and the roof upwards, it has a minature kitchen [Austin briefly folds out a sink from the arm of his seat and then puts it back] I have of course, never used it, and I don't plan to either, so let's find a hotel. [Flicks some ash out of the window]

Chastity : Yes, if anyone is to be labelled camper it would be Stephen. Camper than a row of pink tents. Lets find a hotel, we can concentrate better in comfort with a nice cup of tea.

Alice : [Looking around at some of the previously unnoticed panels in the carriage] Wow! That's a great idea, Aussie! What's in here? [Opens a cupboard, only to be smacked on the head by a fold out ironing board] Ow! What the hell is that? Some sort of table? [The carriage moves on, heading out towards the edge of Sclerotia.]

Stephen : So, Monty, are you a hypocrite? What is that you did?

Austin : [To Stephen] He already told you, as if it wasn't obvious. He spent half his life watching us and criticising our methods, like the rest of the watchers, but never really did anything to help our cause, therefore hypocricy and powerlessness. As Monty pointed out, the labels are some what tenuous. [To Alice, folding the ironingg board away] Like I said, I have never used the nomadic domestic facilities of this vehicle, but I think it's something that the servants use for pressing clothes. [Looking at the board as it is folded away] Maybe it's for preparing large salmon for picnicks? Who knows [Dismisses the whole issue and passes Alice the cheesearette]

Stephen : But there must be more to it than that! [Looks at Monty] I'm sure and your ilk believe that you are helping the cause of good. What did you really do?

Alice : [Taking the cheeseratte] And what about you, Stephen? Which one refers to you?

Stephen : [Shrugs] I'm not sure I'm even part of the party, after all, I was never one of the [a little huffily] chosen ones, was I?

Stephen : The only thing I understand when it comes to you, is why I cast Pauley Shoret to play your part in my film!

Alice : The only thing I understand when it comes to you, Stephen, is that I haven't a clue what you're talking about, although, on further reflection, that's probably a good thing.

Austin : [To Stephen] Oh, you're film with an Oscat, what was it called again? [Waves his hand dissmissivley] I think someone mentioned it at a party in Monacow, they went to see it with the prime minister of some place inconsequential, or somthing. [Ponders his notes. To Stephen] Is it you that is the 'jealous' one?

Alice : Well, Sharon did say it was a she, so maybe Stephen is the jealous one? Although, I think Monty could have a point about it being Faetan.

Chastity : [Nodding] I think so. That girl was an uptight seething mass, if ever there was one.

Alice : Yeah, and you'd know!

Austin : Well, she did have good reason on several occasions, but certainly not on others [Rubs his jaw in memory of that great right hook she gave him once] I wonder where she is now?

Chastity : Probably sitting on a lily pad on a pond somewhere, croaking disagreeably at passing flies.

Chastity : [Indignantly] What? She was turned into a toad by Milicent. Her parting repartee , I believe, was a bitter ribbit!

Alice : True, but that was years ago, she might have turned from an ugly toad into a beautiful butterfly. [Now at the edge of the town, the party come to a crossroads.]

Alice : [Gives a shiver] Look, this is almost where the ambush took place. If only we'd gone left instead of right, poor old Peter would be alive now. Let's take the long way around, there might be a hotel down to the left.

Chastity : [Looks down the right road, and then around the crossroads. Shaking her head] I still don't remember any of this.

Alice : You're not missing much, Chas, it was a terrible time. [The carriage takes the left turn, and soon come to the Special And Relaxing Tavern. A man BAZ KHACHATURIAN, is standing outside it, and waves to the party.]

Baz : Friends! Hello! You look tired! Want room? I make you special price.

Austin : Fae wasn't particularily bitter or twisted, where as Sister Chassers her can remember the past, [Smirk] but [emphasis] can remember the future, now that is twisted. [To Chastity] So, since you already know what you are like in the future, why don't you tell us. [Ponders] In fact Faern said it's okay to know the future, just impossible to change it.

Alice : That's true, or was it that he said it was impossible to change the past? [Nods at the tavern] Will we stay here?

Chastity : I was living a modest life teaching in the convent, that's all. I had neither the state of mind nor the time to find out anything about what everyone else had been up to. [Looks at the tavern] This would seem to be as good a place as any to stay. Last Neutronium Dragon #05.04.079

Austin : [To Monty] Oh yes, silly me [Smirks] Of course, Faern said that you cant change the [emphasis] past! But the future can change, and you can use any knowledge you have of it to your own benifit. [To Chastity] Comeon old girl, you must remember what I was up to in the future, you are always keeping a carefuly eye on little old me, in the off chance you can accuse me of something [Sighs].

Baz : Is little vandalism, is nothing! Funny pictures, you like, you like. I should charge extra!

Austin : [To the party] I believe that my carriage may well be more comfortable. [Ponders] Maybe Chassers is experiencing backwards time so that she can warn us that Peter will die, when her past self, from our first visit to this place realises that there will be an ambush, and we can take the other route and save Peter, because then our present past will be our present future, and therefore maliable. [Ponders] Hmm, interesting legal ramifications.

Alice : What kind of funny pictures?

Baz : Little dancing men! [Does an obvious pretend laugh] Very funny! I laugh lots, big piece of snot shoot from nose. Or you prefer pornography? I have postcards, carry on, oo-er, Missus! Saucy nuns! Everything! I make you special price!

Stephen : [Inhales his breath deeply] Oh Monty, you're on a slippery slope with that comment! [To Baz] Naughty nuns eh, give us a look!

Alice : [Quietly] Thanks, Monty, but, you know, Chas is a lady too.

Baz : No look! But I make you special price! Give one free with room.

Alice : Aw, Monty! The postcard! I mean, the funny picture he was talking about, maybe it's another message?

Austin : [To Alice] That seems a little tenuous, but since we are here on the whim of a nun, then perhaps not. Why don't we look at the rooms and any pictures that seem relevant and then go camping.

Chastity : [To Stephen] And any scurrilous, doctored pictures involving nuns should not be considered. [To Baz] OK?

Austin : [To Chastity] Oh, come now Sister, we cannot ignore good clues simply to safguard your vanity, they are too thin on the ground to miss.

Chastity : [To Austin] As a lawyer with your [looks Austin up and down] interests I sure you should know the difference between vanity and misleading libellous imagery. The good work the hostels I have set up could be compromised by the flagrant display of such fraudulent displays. I have no problem with viewing other cards that may contain useful information.

Austin : [To Chastity] Well, Sister, we will not be able to ascertain wether or not any such cards exist without first perusing them to asses their relevance, libelliousness or other wise. All the evidence must be assesed in order to come to an informed judgement.

Chastity : As I said I have no problem with viewing other cards that may contain useful information, so we are agreement. The libellous images, or image, mentioned has already been seen by a few party members already. [Glances at Baz] Did anyone give him any money?

Austin : [To Chastity] But we won't know if we have seen them before unless we look at them. [Checks his nails]

Alice : [Earnestly] It could be a different nun, Chas!

Baz : [Indignantly] No! I get no money! You pay full price for room, six gold pieces. Five more to see postcards.

Austin : [Sighs] Let's just go and pitch out the carriage etc [Waves a dismissive hand at the hotel.

Alice : What if there's another message?

Chastity : [To Austin] As handy as your camping carriage is, I doubt if it would really sleep all of us, Austin. Let's get the room. What happened to your quest for information a minute ago? I'd pay the man, but I have no money.

Baz : [Folds his arms and scowls at the party] Price go up soon!

Austin : [To Chastity] The carriage will sleep eight comfortably. Considering what you have been sleeping on for the past ten years it'll be absolute luxury for you. [Peruses his nails. To Baz] What is the point in raising your price when you have no customers.

Baz : [With a knowing smile] I have customers. [Glances passed the party at a group of raggedy kids] I have plenty of customers! [Big smile]

Alice : [Rolls her eyes] God almighty, Austin! You're driving a 5,000GP mobile home and you won't pay this guy six!

Baz : Five! [Even bigger smile] Special price for lovely lady.

Baz : Hey! Price just go up! Seven gold pieces!

Austin : [To Baz] Let's see the rooms first, then I might consider paying for them.

Baz : No! You only want see funny pictures! Seven gold pieces!

Stephen : What, seven gold pieces to see the funny pictures, or seven gold pieces for the room? By the way, if the funny pictures are indeed of this dear lady (gestures towards Chastity), I'll have you know that she is owed a fortune in royalties, and anyone found in possession of a depiction of her image, owes her at least...seven gold pieces per image.

Stephen : And I wouldn't blame you, for let me tell you, Chastity would be one very wealthy woman, one very wealthy woman indeed!

Baz : Is now eight gold pieces! For eight gold pieces, you see funny pictures, then you leave. I piss on you! I cut your heads off and piss in the holes! I give heads to my friends, and they piss in them too!

Alice : How much for you to not [wrinkles up nose in disgust] piss on us? I mean [looks around at the others for agreement] I don't think we want to go through that again, do we? We just want to see the pictures.

Austin : [To Baz] If you attempt to urinate upon me I shall cut your [Coughs] I shall have you arrested for assault with a biological weapon grevious bodily harm, destruction of property, failure to comply with health and saftey statures and tax evasion.

Stephen : [Sighs] So are you going to show us these photos or not?

Baz : [To Stephen] If you no pay, I no show.

Alice : [With a sigh of frustration] If we're not going to look at this, let's just leave, this is getting boring.

Chastity : [To Stephen] I would not be a rich woman, as the picture in question is not of me. Just a mock that happens to look like me. [Shakes her head] Really! [Looks round the group] Well if no-ones going to pay then I'm going back to the carriage. I for one have had enough of this man abusive behaviour.

Austin : [Sighs] Great, just what I said in the first place, stay in the carriage. [Goes back to the carriage if he's not already there]

Alice : Right. If we're not going to go in, I suggest we head off, I don't like the look of those kids. [Points at a particularly ugly group of children who are eyeing the carriage menacingly]

Austin : [To Alice] Fine, lets go, before they start urinating everywhere.

Chastity : Or worse.

Alice : [Tuts playfully] Worse! What could be worse. [Looks out] Better get a move on, the moon's out early tonight. In fact, a couple of them are out. [Thinks for a moment and looks out again] Hey! [Turns to Monty] Drive! Drive like the wind! [The carriage sets off.] [Book IV, Act V, Scene V. The Carriage. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, STEPHEN, MONTY and PETER are here, approaching Sclerotia.]

Alice : [Turning away from Chastity] You know, it's now almost a week since she said anything but that annoying "From within it consumes", maybe we should get some psychiatric help.

Peter : Indeed. And perhaps Chastity should too.

Chastity : [Looks round slightly confused before her face lights up with delight] Peter! [A look of realisation comes over her face as she pales] Peter. [Looks out the carriage frantically] Where are we?

Austin : [Looking at Chastity] Well, she's been half bonkers for years, this was bound to happen. [Smirks] She'll be useful for scaring off undesirable touts and beggars though, the proles often think that a madness like that whic Chassers has is somekind of transmitable curse, scares the hell out of them. [Chuckles]

Peter : [Dead calm] We're in a submarine.

Alice : It scares the hell out of me, too, Austin! [Jumps from Chastity's speech] Chas! What the hell has been going on? We tried everything to get you to wake up, slapping you, smelling salts, slapping you, throwing water over you, slapping you, everything! And [glares in the general direction of Peter and Austin] I think someone dipped your fingers in a bowl of warm water!

Chastity : [Looks down to check herself before continuing hurriedly] That's not important now. There's going to be a ambush on the other side of town and Peter will die.

Austin : [Sniggering at Peter's comment. To Alice] Isn't he great! A submarine! [Slaps his thigh in mirthfull laughter, calms down and sighs in relief. To Chastity] Good to have you back, old girl, we are just approaching Sclerotia, or whatever the place is called. Can you shed anymore light on the phrase "From within it consumes", you seem to say it an awful lot, and don't seem to know what it means.

Alice : [Gives Austin a look that's a strange combination between disgust and pity] Yes. Hilarious.

Stephen : Eh? Peter will die? How do you know that?

Chastity : "From within it consumes" has something to do with the dark side of the path, isn't it what Jerome muttered and wrote in his books. [To Alice] You remember the basement, don't you? [To Stephen] It's all a bit strange, but mr conscience seems to have been time travelling into the future for brief periods. Twenty-five and ten years from now. As far as I could remember we had just left on this journey, so I don't know what happens in our futures, but there was constant reference to the ambush on the other side of Sclerotia where Peter died. We must avoid it.

Austin : [To Chastity] Well, we can't have Peter dieing, so where exactly was this ambush? [To whoever is driving] We should stop immideatley, until we figure out where this ambush is and how to avoid it! This Bringer chap must have some inside information, to set up and ambush for us.

Chastity : All I know id that in town we come to a crossroads at the edge of town, and that Alice mentioned that if we hadn't taken the right hand road and taken the left instead, Peter wouldn't have died. [To Peter] Sorry about all this, Peter, it must be quite distressing. [To Austin] I do hope Faern was wrong.

Peter : Yes, it's very distressing, I'd much rather hear about which hair conditioner compromises L'Oreal Feria blonde hair colouring more.

Alice : Hey! You said you wanted to hear all about it! [To the party in general] If what the crazy lady says is true, who or what is causing it to happen? And she makes a valid point - how can we change things if we already know the future?

Stephen : [Looks at Chastity doubtfully] Oh-kay, sounds to me like you've been having nightmares during the last few days. I mean, you've been to the future but know nothing about it? Where does the left road lead at the crossroads?

Chastity : Or worse.

Alice : [Tuts playfully] Worse! What could be worse. [Looks out] Better get a move on, the moon's out early tonight. In fact, a couple of them are out. [Thinks for a moment and looks out again] Hey! [Turns to Monty] Drive! Drive like the wind! [The carriage sets off.] [Book IV, Act V, Scene V. The Carriage. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, STEPHEN, MONTY and PETER are here, approaching Sclerotia.]

Alice : [Turning away from Chastity] You know, it's now almost a week since she said anything but that annoying "From within it consumes", maybe we should get some psychiatric help.

Peter : Indeed. And perhaps Chastity should too.

Chastity : [Looks round slightly confused before her face lights up with delight] Peter! [A look of realisation comes over her face as she pales] Peter. [Looks out the carriage frantically] Where are we?

Austin : [Looking at Chastity] Well, she's been half bonkers for years, this was bound to happen. [Smirks] She'll be useful for scaring off undesirable touts and beggars though, the proles often think that a madness like that whic Chassers has is somekind of transmitable curse, scares the hell out of them. [Chuckles]

Peter : [Dead calm] We're in a submarine.

Alice : It scares the hell out of me, too, Austin! [Jumps from Chastity's speech] Chas! What the hell has been going on? We tried everything to get you to wake up, slapping you, smelling salts, slapping you, throwing water over you, slapping you, everything! And [glares in the general direction of Peter and Austin] I think someone dipped your fingers in a bowl of warm water!

Chastity : [Looks down to check herself before continuing hurriedly] That's not important now. There's going to be a ambush on the other side of town and Peter will die.

Austin : [Sniggering at Peter's comment. To Alice] Isn't he great! A submarine! [Slaps his thigh in mirthfull laughter, calms down and sighs in relief. To Chastity] Good to have you back, old girl, we are just approaching Sclerotia, or whatever the place is called. Can you shed anymore light on the phrase "From within it consumes", you seem to say it an awful lot, and don't seem to know what it means.

Alice : [Gives Austin a look that's a strange combination between disgust and pity] Yes. Hilarious.

Stephen : Eh? Peter will die? How do you know that?

Chastity : "From within it consumes" has something to do with the dark side of the path, isn't it what Jerome muttered and wrote in his books. [To Alice] You remember the basement, don't you? [To Stephen] It's all a bit strange, but mr conscience seems to have been time travelling into the future for brief periods. Twenty-five and ten years from now. As far as I could remember we had just left on this journey, so I don't know what happens in our futures, but there was constant reference to the ambush on the other side of Sclerotia where Peter died. We must avoid it.

Austin : [To Chastity] Well, we can't have Peter dieing, so where exactly was this ambush? [To whoever is driving] We should stop immideatley, until we figure out where this ambush is and how to avoid it! This Bringer chap must have some inside information, to set up and ambush for us.

Chastity : All I know id that in town we come to a crossroads at the edge of town, and that Alice mentioned that if we hadn't taken the right hand road and taken the left instead, Peter wouldn't have died. [To Peter] Sorry about all this, Peter, it must be quite distressing. [To Austin] I do hope Faern was wrong.

Peter : Yes, it's very distressing, I'd much rather hear about which hair conditioner compromises L'Oreal Feria blonde hair colouring more.

Alice : Hey! You said you wanted to hear all about it! [To the party in general] If what the crazy lady says is true, who or what is causing it to happen? And she makes a valid point - how can we change things if we already know the future?

Stephen : [Looks at Chastity doubtfully] Oh-kay, sounds to me like you've been having nightmares during the last few days. I mean, you've been to the future but know nothing about it? Where does the left road lead at the crossroads?

Austin : [To Chastity] As I said before, Faern said that we can change the future, it's the past we cannot change, which, in any case, is your future, since you are travelling backwards in time. [Looks at Chastity, doubtfully] We can take the left turn regardless, if it saves Peter then it's a turn worth taking, even if we don't have a suitable conditioner [Bursts into a fit of giggles, looking at Peter, then calms down quickly as he realises how cheesy his joke was compared to Peter's]

Peter : [With barely concealed contempt as he looks at Austin's hair] It's just as well. [The carriage takes the left fork in the road.]

Alice : You show a surprising grasp of temporal mathematics, Austin, but you're slightly incorrect. Darius showed that you can't change the future, only take advantage of it, however, Faern did say that if you do succeed, you either jump to another dimension or destroy the universe. [Looks at Peter] So, run the risk of destroying the universe or save one person. What do you say to that, young Peter?

Peter : That you are so much more bearable now that you know mathematics.

Chastity : [To Peter] It would be worth it. [To the group] Unfortunately I have not the details of what actually happened at the ambush, so the size and force of the opposition is unknown should they follow us.

Austin : [To Alice] But if we can't change the future, how is it possible to take advantage of it? You see, the paradox?

Alice : There's no paradox, look at what Darius did. He knew that he was going to be killed at the song contest, so made sure that when he was killed that special orb would let him use the soul sanctuaries. He was still killed, but in a way that he could come back. Of course, if we have just changed our future, then it won't make any difference for Chastity to tell us what happened in her version of the future. [Turns to Chastity, sounding a little hopeful] Would it, Sister?

Chastity : Erm, technically no, my dear, but it's amazing how little personal information you gather on a journey such as ours. Most conversation was either about the path, the possible meaning of "From within it consumes", or general party repartee [To Peter] Some may call the latter bickering. [Back to Alice] Suffice to say that in ten years time we all seem to be living separate lives, except Peter, who is dead. [Catches herself. Apologetically to Peter] Oops, sorry Peter.

Stephen : You're not seriously telling us that we're still trying to figure out this 'From Within It Consumes' thing in ten years time, are you? [Sighs] Did you find out anything else about the path in your mental wanderings?

Chastity : I'm afraid so. It had obviously ceased to be a concern as nobody could understand it's meaning or why I was saying it. [Pauses, obviously trying to remember] We came across a fortune teller who obviously bought her clothes in the same shops as Alice. She had various general warnings of doom and gloom, and drew us a strange coded picture, which I'll try to recreate if someone will Let me a pad and pencil. Alice?

Alice : [Hands the pencil and pad over] So, this stylish fortune teller drew a coded picture, eh? Did you figure out what it meant?

Stephen : Are you sure this fortune teller wasn't just a prostitute having a laugh and spinning you a line?

Chastity : [Drawing the stick figure picture] We didn't think so. It was at least worth consideration.

Stephen : [Looks at the drawing] I've never seen anything like that in my life, I've no idea what it means.

Chastity : Well decoding it will be a mental challenge, so perhaps someone else should have a look at it. [Shows it to the rest of the group] Austin had hazarded as guess at "The heart of the Beast", not that it meant anything to anyone. That a terrible evil that has been trapped for a long time is about to escape.

Stephen : [To Chastity] I presume you mean that it is about to escape ten years in the future, which, if I'm right, means we have over ten years to figure out this drawing! And furthermore, sister, was the original drawing this basic, or it is that just that you're no dab hand with a pencil?

Chastity : [To Stephen] Lean a bit closer and I'll show how accurate I am with a pencil. [Pauses to compose herself] I beg your pardon, I mean no, that is just how it was drawn. [Looks at the drawing] It may take ten years to work out.

Alice : [Looks curiously at Chastity] Right. [Dubiously] Are you sure that's exactly what was shown, Chas? I think we can be certain that it doesn't say "The Heart of the beast". [CHASTITY's drawing resembles the one the party see in the future, but is different. What is the same are the number of figures, and the positions of those holding the flags.]

Stephen : I wonder what it's supposed to represent though. Or are they only the deranged ramblings of a sadly baffled and confused old nun. I mean, the sixth, ninth, thirteenth and nineteenth stick figures are holding a little flag, but...[shrugs] have no idea why. Ah well, ten years to solve it!

Alice : Look, she told us it was a coded message, so it's pretty clear that the men with the flags denote spaces - basic cryptographic math, people, all the simple codes contain special characters for spaces. [To Chastity] Did this future Austin tell you it said "The heart of the beast"? It can't be that.

Austin : Let me have a look then [Takes a brief look at it] Well, "Heart of the beast" fits in fine with a standard letter substitution cypher, taking the stick men carrying boxes as spaces, but just "Heart of the beast", not [Emphasis] "THE heart of the beast". This seems to suggest some great evil beast that consumes from within? [Shakes his head doubtfully] Some kind of unplesant parisite? [Pomders] The "evil path", fits in with Trindle's treachary I guess.

Peter : No.

Stephen : [Holds up a massive ball of paper and tuts] Who tried to fold this map after using it last? [Tries to unfold the map and check where the left path leads]

Alice : Hm, it looks like a very windy road, that pretty much runs alongside the other fork, just higher up. Or is that lower down?

Stephen : [Hands the map to Alice] Well, the main thing about the left hand route is that we know that Peter will survive, so wherever it leads, let's just take it.

Alice : We already have taken, it, Einstein. [To Monty] This is a map, a piece of paper, it's flat. How on earth is that going to show elevation? Honestly, Monty, do you ever [almost imperceptible pause] the evelevation, Stephen, is obviously about twenty feet.

Chastity : Well more precisely he'll die if we take the right hand road. [Looks at the drawing] I can't really guarentee that all the figures are the same, although the one's with flags are. [The carriage continues on, indeed through a windy and elevated road. After about ten minutes, it comes to a stop, as the party can see a bunch of people between the two roads, effectively hiding behind rocks looking down on the other road. They are all SCREAMERS, except for one, who is clearly the BRINGER. He is about seven feet tall and wears a similar helmet to RICK. However, his armour is open, and some of the SCREAMERS seems to be attaching tubes to his chest, which are then connected to some jars. He is turned away slightly from the party, so it is difficult to tell what is going on.]

Alice : Hm, waiting to ambush someone?

Stephen : [To Chastity] Are you sure we shouldn't have gone down the right hand path? I wonder if they're here to ambush us! [Looks at the Bringer] I wonder if those jars contain the heart of the beast?

Alice : Actually, I think they are there to ambush whoever's on the right path, well done Chas. You know, this reminds me of a Sheerluck Homely story. It was set in Demntia, and there was this guy, [thinks hard] hm, what was his name again? [Thinks hard]

Stephen : [Looks at Alice for a while, before sighing deeply] Could it have been Sheerluck Homely perhaps?

Alice : That's the guy! Anyway, Sheerluck sat back and said [puts on a real snotty accent] this is a three pipe problem. [Sits back, satisified at her helpful contribution]

Chastity : [Wearily] Hmm yes, I wonder. [Brightly to Peter] Well as least you're saved. Lets just hope that the world isn't about to end because of it!

Peter : [Climbing out of the carriage] Indeed. For then there would be no more hula-hoops.

Stephen : Well, what do we do, charge in or turn the carriage around and hightail it out of here? I don't think they've noticed us yet.

Chastity : [Also climbing out, looking down at the Bringer and screamers] Well I suppose we should do the right thing and stealthily sneak up behind them to see what they are doing? [PETER looks disdainfully at STEPHEN for a moment before taking out his sword.]

Alice : Does that mean - [ALICE is interrupted by what appears to be lightening crashing around the party, all of whom dive for cover. It looks as though all the party members (not PETER) were struck, but no one is injured. Some of the SCREAMERS turn around to look, but, as the carriage is off the road, don't appear to see anything.]

Alice : What the hell was that?

Chastity : [Quickly checking herself] Is everyone OK? I wonder if that was fate realising we'd cheated it? [To Peter] Do we seem any different to you?

Stephen : I've never come across anything like it in my life! Could it be god telling us to not be so stupid and just leg it?

Alice : Maybe it was God telling us to hurry up and attack the Bringer while his stomach is open?

Peter : [Looks around the party slowly] Other than the fact that Alice has marginally more grass stains on her back, no.

Stephen : Oh well. [Draws his sword] If those jars contain vital fluids, then perhaps we should try to smash them first, that might weaken the Bringer.

Austin : Sounds like a good idea to me [Gets his sling out] There is also a few liters of stove oil in the carriage, we could make some oil bombs [Austin nips into the carriage and returns a few moments later with some hastily made bombs]

Alice : [Drawing her sword] Okay, but, if we do attack, aren't we kind of outnumbered?

Stephen : Wow, showing us your impressive mathematical powers yet again I see! Perhaps we can knock out a few isolated screamers and disguise ourselves, sneak up to the jars and smash them!

Alice : Maybe the Screamers take their power from the Bringer? Disable him and they're all finished, gone, dead, kaput, no more, pushing up daisies, kicking the bucket. Let's just kill him.

Peter : [Rolls his eyes and gives a big sigh] And what if they don't?

Alice : Then we're all finished, gone, dead, kaput, no more, pushing up daisies, kicking the bucket.

Stephen : [To Alice] What exactly are you trying to say, here?

Alice : That we should either target him directly, or not. Definitely.

Chastity : Or we could just continue on our original mission to meet up the representatives of the South to avert a war. After all Peter is still with us.

Alice : I guess it depends on how much of a big bad the Bringer is. What did you find out about him on your time travels sister? Also, tell us what you know about advances in hair care technology.

Chastity : The Bringer wasn't discussed, actually. Just that the encounter with him had been years previous. We were on our way on a mystery mission to Cachexia before I came back round. As for hair care technology, from what I could see from you nothing had been found to keep those troublesome roots from showing. Sorry, dear.

Austin : [Surveying the battle scene] We do have a height advantage, and the Bringer seems somewhat occupied at the present, and how would we get out of here without them following?

Alice : [Dismayed at Chastity's words] Oh no! I mean, what troublesome roots?

Peter : We could fly away in our magic carpet.

Stephen : So what's it to be, fight or flee? On the one hand, this is probably a good chance to catch him off guard, however, on the other, after the surprise has worn off, he'll be on his guard!

Alice : Not following due process, Monty? Whatever next? Austin being modest? [Takes out her bow and arrow] Right, what's the plan?

Alice : Good plan, Monty, and, may I say, making haste in a carriage is what I do best!

Stephen : [Raises his eyebrows] That's not what I heard.

Alice : [Glares at Stephen for a moment before addressing the others] Even if we pull this off, I think it's safe to say we'll need some reckless, foolhardy and downright dangerous driving to escape.

Austin : [Loading his sling carefully] Ready when you are Monty, old chap. Ahem.

Alice : Ahem. I could advise you on the exact angle and velocity required, as well as the expected speed the missile at the time of contact with the jars, but that will only make it more difficult for you, because people will over think it. Best to let your mind go blank and fire as hard as you can where you think the jar is. [Tensions her bow, ready to fire, and face goes even blanker than usual]

Stephen : I suggest Alice and I go for the left one, and Monty and Austin the right. [Readies his bow] Just say the word, and we all fire.

Austin : [Fires at the right hand jar and reloads for a second shot]

Austin : [Throws another oil bomb at the Bringer. To Monty] Shout when it's time to retreat.

[PETER hits the BRINGER twice in the throat with arrows, just as AUSTIN's bomb explodes directly on him, but the party are showered with arrows from the further SCREAMERS, while those closer by start to close in.]

Stephen : [Screaming like a girl] It's time to retreat! [Turns to Alice, who was on the far side of him from the carriage] Quick, Alice! [Does a double take] Huh? Where did she go?

Alice : [In the carriage, revving the horses and beeping the horn impatiently] Come on! I've got some reckless driving to do! floor. It took a week contacted, and the whole those of you with wooden

Stephen : It's time to retreat.

[AUSTIN's bomb misses the BRINGER, but lands close to him, covering him and the nearby SCREAMERS in flames when it explodes. The remaining jars are caught up in the flames. Each of MONTY, STEPHEN and ALICE fire again, with MONTY and ALICE hitting the BRINGER.]

Alice : Wow! This is great!

[The SCREAMERS have clearly located the direction from which the firing came, and start running back up the hill.]

Alice : Oh, now that's not so great. the Morcs had

Austin : [Jumps into the carriage and takes shots at the Bringer/ Screamers from there] Let's go!

Austin : [Lights and throws an oil bomb at the Bringer]

Chastity : Fire! [ALICE and STEPHEN also shoot, each hitting the left jar once, and ALICE also hitting the SCREAMER nearest the BRINGER. Similarly, AUSTIN strikes his jar once, as does MONTY, missing with the second shot. Both jars shatter easily, with a thick brown liquid bursting out. The BRINGER staggers back, clearly stunned, while the SCREAMERs look around, clearly not sure where the attack is coming from.]

Chastity : [Getting carried away] Again! Again!

Stephen : [Fires another arrow. To Alice] Drive, girl, drive!

Chastity : [Grabbing hold on the side of the carriage to hold herself in a seat] Now, dear. Drive like the wind! And may Phili protest us. [To Peter] Hold on tight, we would want to lose you after avoiding certain death.

Austin : [To Alice] So, if you can't change the future, how can you possibly use knowledge of the future to your advantage? [Throws another oil bomb from the carriage at the Bringer and ducks back into his seat quickly]

Alice : Just like Darius did, he only knew part of what was going to happen, and used it to escape the wrath of Phili. Anyway, Austin, this is hardly the time to discuss it! [Floors the horses, sending the carriage screamin away with a smell of burning wood] Yeeha! This is going to be simple!

[Suddenly the whole carriage shakes and shudders, and a similar burst of lightening to before crashes all around it, ripping the roof off, and sending bed linen flying all over the place. Just as suddenly, it stops again, but ALICE momentarily lost control, and the carriage is now plunging down the hill towards the BRINGER. Several of the SCREAMERS leap on, and start trying to climb in.]

Alice : Oh no! [Looks in the mirror before turning to the others in dismay] Now where will we sleep tonight?

Chastity : I'm sure you'll find someone, I mean, somewhere. [Tries to hit the hands of the nearest screamer to have them fall off the carriage]

Austin : [To Alice] This is exactly the time to discuss it! [Holding on to the carriage with one hand and trying to fend off Screamers with his dagger] If Darius avoided Phili's wrath then he changed te future!

Alice : [Sawing away at the steering wheel, but turning to face Austin] Look, he found out from us he'd be killed, and used that information to get ressurected. Now, maybe that isn't changing the future, Mr. Pedantic. [Everyone gets a huge bump as the carriage flies into the air, sending them up off their seats. Most of the SCREAMERS hang on, while all but ALICE try to knock them off.]

Alice : [As the carriage lands with a crash] Maybe that isn't changing the future, but it's taking advantage of knowledge of it.

Austin : [To Alice, whilst trying to stab a Screamer] Of course it's changing the future! [With unveild contempt] If he hadn't done it he'd be dead, no pedantry involved!

Alice : [With even more contempt] Maybe he didn't change it at all! All he did was figure out that he needed that soul transferance thing to stay alive! [Whap. The carriage mows down the BRINGER, as a few SCREAMERS fall off, but more grab on.]

Monty : [Smashing a Screamer's fingers] Perhaps, Alice. You could face forward while having this conversation?

Chastity : I hate to say, Mr. Giles, but she's doing better than normal not looking. [Tries to looks out the back of the carriage for the Bringer]

Peter : Indeed. I feel like we're floating on air. [A massive hand plunges up through the floor of the carriage. Judging by the size of it, it almost certainly belongs to the BRINGER. Each of MONTY, CHASTITY and STEPHEN have knocked off a SCREAMER each, and the one nearest AUSTIN is hanging by a fingernail, but there are at least six more hanging on.]

Stephen : [Swings at the hand coming up through the floor] What the hell does it take to kill this guy?

Austin : [Stabs the finger of the Screamer nearest him. To Alice] Pull the blue lever! It empties the chemical water closet tank that's under the carriage!

Chastity : [Gasps] So I was right, it is Clint! [Tries to push off another screamer]

Austin : [Stabs at a tentacle] Killl it!

Alice : Quickly! Cut his testicles off! [The tentacles are very tough to cut through, and soon each of AUSTIN and STEPHEN are grabbed by one. As everyone hacks away, the party is struck by yet another burst of lightening, which comes in through the open roof, before dividing up and striking each of them. When the air clears, the party have disappeared, with just PETER and the others remaining.]

Peter : [Looks around him at the Screamers coming in, before taking a look at the out of control carriage that is plunging towards the edge of a cliff that hangs precariously over a fast flowing river full of crocodiles that have recently escaped from a crocodile torture farm] Well, thanks for saving me. [Book IV, Act V, Scene VI. The Quicksand. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, STEPHEN and MONTY are here, having suddenly appeared, dispersed across an area of about twenty feet, all now waist deep in quicksand. There are the traditional few trees dotted around which overhang the sand, but all are pretty much out of reach.]

Monty : Everyone keep calm. We need to consider our actions here.

Stephen : Forget that! It's every man for himself! Good luck, loser! [Starts to run as fast as he can, and stops when he is up to his neck, and about two inches further.] Er, good idea, Monty.

Chastity : [Looking round] Well I suppose this goes with your discussion topic, Austin.

Alice : Huh? [Looks around at the others] What are we going to do?

Austin : [To Alice, whilst holding Maplin out of the quicksand] I suggest that you scream for help, like a beautiful wou.... like the beautiful woman that you are. [Grimaces as he sinks further] Such a terrible demise for such a beautiful suit!

Alice : Help! Help! [About to shout again, but stops, as a bird approaches the party] Look! I bet it's a trained hawk or something! They're ever so clever, in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he saves us. [The vulture lands on one of the tree branches.]

Stephen : [Looking at the vulture, to Alice] Do you suppose he's waiting for maximum dramatic effect and will save us at the very last minute?

Alice : I bet he is! [Looks up] Hey Mister Eagle, we're ready to be saved now. [Splat. ALICE gets some bird shit into the eye.]

Alice : Hey!

Stephen : Oh Alice, when you're down in luck, you're really, really down! Help! Help! Please someone help us!

Alice : Good idea, Aus! [Pulls a purple lever] [Immediately, the carriage is filled with doves, pouring out of all the cupboards which have magically opened.]

Alice : Gah! Sorry! [Pulls the blue lever, causing a distinct flushing sound to be heard from beneath the carriage] Did it work? [Two large tentacles, which had been used to attach the jars to the BRINGER, burst up through the floor.]

Stephen : [Smacking the Bringer's hand] No! Now he's angry and stinky! [Book IV, Act V, Scene VI. The Quicksand. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, STEPHEN and MONTY are here, having suddenly appeared, dispersed across an area of about twenty feet, all now waist deep in quicksand. There are the traditional few trees dotted around which overhang the sand, but all are pretty much out of reach.]

Monty : Everyone keep calm. We need to consider our actions here.

Stephen : Forget that! It's every man for himself! Good luck, loser! [Starts to run as fast as he can, and stops when he is up to his neck, and about two inches further.] Er, good idea, Monty.

Chastity : [Looking round] Well I suppose this goes with your discussion topic, Austin.

Alice : Quickly! Cut his testicles off! [The tentacles are very tough to cut through, and soon each of AUSTIN and STEPHEN are grabbed by one. As everyone hacks away, the party is struck by yet another burst of lightening, which comes in through the open roof, before dividing up and striking each of them. When the air clears, the party have disappeared, with just PETER and the others remaining.]

Peter : [Looks around him at the Screamers coming in, before taking a look at the out of control carriage that is plunging towards the edge of a cliff that hangs precariously over a fast flowing river full of crocodiles that have recently escaped from a crocodile torture farm] Well, thanks for saving me.

Alice : Huh? [Looks around at the others] What are we going to do?

Austin : [To Alice, whilst holding Maplin out of the quicksand] I suggest that you scream for help, like a beautiful wou.... like the beautiful woman that you are. [Grimaces as he sinks further] Such a terrible demise for such a beautiful suit!

Alice : Help! Help! [About to shout again, but stops, as a bird approaches the party] Look! I bet it's a trained hawk or something! They're ever so clever, in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he saves us. [The vulture lands on one of the tree branches.]

Stephen : [Looking at the vulture, to Alice] Do you suppose he's waiting for maximum dramatic effect and will save us at the very last minute?

Alice : I bet he is! [Looks up] Hey Mister Eagle, we're ready to be saved now. [Splat. ALICE gets some bird shit into the eye.]

Alice : Hey!

Stephen : Oh Alice, when you're down in luck, you're really, really down! Help! Help! Please someone help us!

Alice : Good idea, Aus! [Pulls a purple lever] [Immediately, the carriage is filled with doves, pouring out of all the cupboards which have magically opened.]

Alice : Gah! Sorry! [Pulls the blue lever, causing a distinct flushing sound to be heard from beneath the carriage] Did it work? [Two large tentacles, which had been used to attach the jars to the BRINGER, burst up through the floor.]

Stephen : [Smacking the Bringer's hand] No! Now he's angry and stinky!

Chastity : On the contrary, that's meant to be lucky. Stop panicking, Stephen, you'll just sink in further. Move slowly and try to float. [Tries to slowly lean back and float on the quicksand] I remember my second husband, George, telling me about it after he lost most a trekking party in the jungle from a lrge pool of the quicksand.

Alice : Lucky? As if it wasn't bad enough that we're stuck in quicksand, I've now got soiled hair to deal with!

[Enter BJORSETH BJORSETHSEN, a conservative looking man of about thirty in a bow tie and straw boater, and other, varsity type clothing.]

Bjorseth : [Holds up a hand of greeting] Calm day.

Chastity : [To Bjorseth] Good day to you, sir. Could you please be of service and help us out of this quicksand?

Bjorseth : Sure, no problem.

Aphi: Nah, let's not. Let's just leave 'em there.

Chastity : [Sternly to Aphi] No, lets help them out of here, feel good about yourself, and get a reward.

Austin : [To Aphi] Yes, think feel good, think reward, think great rescue tales to impress the girls with, think hero, think more reward!

Aphis : [Roars with laughter] Bam! Just kidding with you folks.

Bjorseth : [Rolls his eyes] I apologise for my excitable friend. He is very annoying. [The two throw ropes into the party, first to AUSTIN and CHASTITY.]

Aphis : [Throwing his to Austin] Okay, friend, hold tight. We'll soon have you out of there.

Chastity : [Grabbing hold of Bjorseth's rope] Thank you very much. [Starts to pull herself out]

[With a bit of effort, CHASTITY and AUSTIN are dragged to safety, and the ropes thrown in again, for STEPHEN and ALICE.]

Bjorseth : [Bows to Chastity] Calmness to you, good lady. I am Bjorseth Bjorsethsen, and my uncalm friend is Aphi.

Austin : [Frantically dusting the sand off his suit, calms down a little. Sigh of relief. To Bjorseth] Thank you for rescuing us, this is Sister Chastity and I am Austin Sleaze. [Dusts himself down some more, checks his hair in his pocket mirror, gets out one of those sticky roller fluff remover things and cleans his suit some more]

Bjorseth : [Watching Austin with a mixture of curiosity and amusement] Good to meet you, friends.

[MONTY is now brought to safety too.]

Monty : Thank you, good sirs. I am Montgommery Giles, and this is Stephen Hitchberg and Alice Bassett-Short.

Chastity : [To Bjorseth] We were all lost after a carriage accident and stumbled into this quicksand. Where are we? [Looks round suddenly] Where's Peter?

Bjorseth : [Looks around] Er, a carriage accident? Did it sink in the quicksand?

Aphi : Peter? That must be the dead guy we saw earlier. [Sees the look of horror on faces of the party] Bam! Just kidding!

Bjorseth : Please forgive my friend. He's an idot.

Chastity : [Giving Alphi a glare] Yeeeees. Such things are not to be joked about, young man!

Alphi : [Roars with laughter at Chastity] Sorry, Chas, I was just funnin' with you! Looks like there's no sign of your carriage. We're staying just over that hill, so why don't you stay with us? It's getting late. [This is true, it is early evening and getting a bit dark.]

Chastity : [Cringing] Don't call me Chas! Although I should say thank you for coming to our aid. The offer of shelter for the night is most kind. [Looks around again] Where are we?

Austin : [Looking around at the party's new surroundings] This may be the type of thing that happens when you try to change the future. [To Alphi] Does this land have a name?

Aphi : Sure thing Chas. [Loudly and brightly, doing a pretend boxing move on Chastity] Bam! Just kidding, Chastity, I won't do that to you.

Bjorseth : [Glares for at Aphi for a moment] We're about ten miles from Serenity. Around five miles south of the Beast. [Looks at Alice] The wet sand makes your nipples stick up in a very strange way.

Alice : [Startled] Huh? [Looks down at herself before pulling her cardigan closed] Hey!

Chastity : The Beast? [Looks at Austin and back to Bjorseth] What's that?

Bjorseth : [Points into the distance] It's a volcano.

Chastity : [To the party] We have to go there. Austin translated the stick man code as "Heart of the Beast", and the fortune teller saw an terrible evil that had been trapped for a long time about to emerge. Fate has interviened and sent us here already. We can't ignore it.

Aphi : [Startled] The heart of the beast? [Looks excitedly at Bjorseth] Now that can't be a coincidence!

Bjorseth : [Distractedly looking at Alice, before taking his hat off and mopping his brow] It seems unlikely.

Chastity : What do know of this phrase?

Aphi : Well, you're clearly not from around here. In the last few weeks, many people have had similar dreams, all waking with the message "In the heart of the beast".

Bjorseth : The nature of these dreams was distinctly uncalm and disturbing. How is it that you know of it?

Chastity : A woman proclaiming to be a fortuneteller gave us it in code.

Aphi : What kind of code? It would be -

Bjorseth : [Interrupting, stepping forward towards Alice] There is something very strange about you. [Turns and looks at Chastity, pointing at her] You have it too, although it's not the same, or as strong.

Aphi : I was going to say that it would indeed be interesting if your code was the same code as one that we found.

Bjorseth : [Clearly puzzled over something, turns to Austin] You don't have it either, yet she's your sister? Did you have a common father or mother.

Austin : [To Aphi] 'Sister' is Chastity's title, and we are not relatives, none of us are related to eachother. [Looks at Aphi to see he understands] What about "From within it consumes", have you heard that phrase before?

Stephen : [Wiping quicksand from himself] So, you've both heard of this heart of the beast also? Who gave you the code?

Aphi : [Rolls his eyes] Here we go. [Speaks to Monty while Bjorseth starts to talk] We call the code the Dancing Men. It is a bunch of pictures of badly drawn stick figures.

Bjorseth : Yes, yes I have heard of it, what does it mean?

Aphi : [To Chastity] Title? I'm not familiar with it, what is a Sister?

Chastity : I am a Nun. A member of a religious order preaching love, tolerance and mercy.

Austin : [Looks suprised] Although they seem to be rather keen on aversion therapy, by being hateful, intolerant and merciless to their fellow humans.

Bjorseth : Love? What do you mean love?

Aphi : [Laughs at Austin, throwing a pretend punch at Chastity] Bam! Hateful, intolerant and merciless? Hah! Excellent! [Smiles again] What's a [pauses to recall the word] religious order?

Chastity : I think we'd better go into this later, it's getting late. [Points at Austin] And don't listen to him if he offers an explanation, as his view on the matter is somewhat tainted. Shall we go?

Bjorseth : Tainted? But why don't you just explain to him how things really are?

Aphi : Spinster Chastity is right, let's head back to the camp, we've got enough food for everyone for tonight, but we'll need to go hunting in the morning as there'll be no more left. Come on, it's this way. You can talk on the way. It sure sounds like you folks are from a very different place. [Everyone starts walking towards a small hill that looks just a few minutes away.]

Alice : [Quietly to the others] Is it just me, or are these the most open people we've ever met? It's starting to freak me out.

Aphi : [Who, of course, can hear Alice whispering in her Harvey-like manner, turns with a look that's somewhere between amused and puzzled] Whispering when no one's asleep? Oh-kay!

Bjorseth : I told you she was the strangest one.

Austin : [To Bjorseth, cautiously] What is it that you find strange about Alice?

Chastity : Maybe they can sense her oestrogen levels. [To Bjorseth] Are there many ladies in your camp?

Bjorseth : None, it is just Aphi and I. I am familiar with ladies, Sister Chastity, it just feels like there is something different about you two. [To Aphi] Do you notice it?

Aphi : No. So anyway, Spinster Chastity, you were going to tell us about love and this religious order thing?

Chastity : [To Aphi] Just for the record, a religious order is an organization of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with religious devotion. And before you ask, a religion is a belief concerning the divine, resulting in worship.

Bjorseth : The nearest town is Serenity, but who are these Knights you speak of? there may be gaps

Aphi : Divine? [Shakes his head, smiling] You might speak like us, but many of your words make no sense! What is it that you worship? Some sort of alcoholic drink? [Looks momentarily startled at the sound of Alice stifling a laugh]

Chastity : [Throwing Alice a glare. To Aphi] Far to the contrary, young man. A god, the holiest of holies, the merciful and loving Phili. This is the one true religion, all others are twisted or false.

Chastity : [To Monty] Not necessarily, Mr. Giles. Just because these two men don't know of the knights or religion does not necessarily mean that at all. [To Bjorseth] Could you please just indulge my colleague here and tell us the current date?

Bjorseth : Certainly, Sister, today is Prickle-Prickle, the second day of the Aftermath in the yeld 3170.

Aphi : Time travel? From before or after? [Exchanges raised eyebrows with Bjorseth]

Chastity : [Uncertainly, to Monty] Well, technically my point still stands.

Austin : [Looking dipleased] Who's idea was this anyway? [Looks at Chastity] That's the last time I go with the manical ravings of a psychotic nun, next time we lock her up and weld the door shut! [Struts off a little] How the hell are we going to get out of this mess?

Alice : Given that we don't even know what kind of mess we're in, how are we supposed to know even where to start?

Aphi : [Watching Austin and Chastity] Oh-kay! Well, you guys are so different, I think I believe you're from another time. [To Chastity] So, Spinster Chastity, I believe we have people like you here. We call them alcoholics.

Austin : [Cheers up alot, snickering] Spinster Chastity the alcoholic! So time travel hasn't changed everything. [More serious] It seems to me that we should go into the Beast and find the Heart, probably Contagion's lair, and finish the job that Darius made such a mess of last time.

Aphi : So come on, guys, what's up with you? What's this love thing?

[The group reach a small camp.]

Bjorseth : We can take you to the Beast tomorrow, if Aphi's uncalm behaviour doesn't drive you away.

Austin : [To Aphi] Love is a rather complicated concept to explain, but basically, say whatever your favourite food is, for example caviar, well then one might say that you love caviar. [Strolls along] But, love, is also used to describe your feelings in many other circumstances. For example, one might say that they 'love sunny days', because you feel great when you get up in the morning and it's sunny, or you might say that you 'love' some girl, because you want to snog her. So I guess when you love something, then you like it really alot, you know, the kind of things you love are the kind of things that make life worth living. So it's a feeling, or emotion. [Looks at Aphi to see if he understands]

Bjorseth : [To Austin] That's just great. Thank you. Now he's going to be completely unbearable.

Aphi : [With a huge smile] Hah! I knew it, I just knew! [To Austin] I think I love you!

Stephen : I don't know, Monty, I think it's great that Austin and Aphi could have feelings for one another!

Stephen : Encourage him? This is love, Monty, nature must take its course!

Aphi : Right, folks, we'll get some food on, there are spare blankets in our carriage, help yourselves. [Lowly to Monty] We've also got some alcohol, but we'll keep that from site, just in case!

Chastity : [Retrieving an armful of blankets] Have you any tea?

Stephen : [Aghast] You most certainly will not! What I need right now is a good strong stiff...drink.

Chastity : [To Stephen] We'll let the tea bags stew a bit for your cup then.

Stephen : There's more than enough stewing bags around here as it is, sister.

Chastity : That'll be those thermal pants you insist on wearing, Stephen.

Stephen : [Strokes his mohair trousers] Well, as I always say, a salty roasted nut is a tasty nut!

Austin : [To Aphi] Your statement has caused uncalmness in my colleagues as there are, primarily, two senses in which the term 'love' is used. The first is in the sense of greatly liking, as in greatly liking caviar, whilst the second is in the romatic or sexual sense, hence my most mentally immature colleagues' mirth at your statement of love for me. Whilst I'm sure you meant it in the purely platonic sense, my colleagues here [Gestures towards Stephen and Monty] are humored by the the possibility of the nonplatonic inference, vis a vis, homosexuality. They do this alot, so I shouldn't worry about it. Stephen is homosexual, Monty, i'm not so sure about, perhaps he hasn't decided yet. [Gets out a cheesearette and lights up, taking several deep draws and blowing some smoke rings]

Stephen : And I'm sure as soon as he does [gestures towards Monty], you'll try to get straight in there, will you? Like that young chap you spent the night with, young master Um?

Austin : [To Stephen] I have never any homosexual interactions, nor do I plan or desire any such experiences. [Gets a photo from his wallet and shows it to Aphi, then to Bj] This was my fiance, but she was murdered by a traitor known as Trindle. She was, without doubt, the most beautiful woman ever to walk this earth.

Aphi : Indeed, we have some tea. When you feel that your nerves are strained, try to picture yourself in a safe environment, like a forest, or perhaps a quiet room in your house. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, and you will find yourself calming. [BJORSETH starts to make some tea.]

Alice : What about if you're going to be killed by a tiger?

Aphi : In that case you take out your sword and chop him to pieces. We're calm, but we're not idiots.

Bjorseth : [Takes the picture for a moment and looks at it] Fiancee? I'm not familiar with that term, but I assume you loved her?

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Yes I did.

Chastity : And in both ways, judging by the noises coming from his room on their last night together.

Bjorseth : [Not being unsympathetic, just clearly very interested] I see. And how did you feel when she died?

Aphi : [Coming back with tea] Lurid details, eh? Come on, we've got to hear this! What were they doing?

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Naturally, I felt most aggrieved, deeply anguished.

Bjorseth : Sounds like love's a bit of pain in the ass.

Stephen : Well, it's funny you should say that - [Fortunately, STEPEHN is interrupted by a huge roar of laughter from APHI, to whom ALICE has just whispered something.]

Aphi : What's so wrong with that?

Alice : Well, I don't know!

Stephen : [To Alice] What did you just say to him?

Alice : [Taken aback] I thought I said that they were having sex.

Aphi : [Still giving the occasional giggle] So did I! [Shakes his head] You guys are very strange! [Clearly for Bjorseth's benefit] Not very calm at all.

Austin : [To Bjorseth, checking his nails momentarialy, frowning at what can only be a grain of sand under a finger nail which he flick away] Are most people here calm all of the time?

Bjorseth : Everyone except Aphi, he's the most excitable man in Serenity.

Aphi : At least I was, but you guys! Whispering, sniggering and what appeared to be banter, man, I've never seen anything like it, it's great!

Chastity : I agree with Mr. Giles, all this excitement is merely a distraction.

Austin : [Blowing a few more smoke rings, then offeres the cheesearette to Alice] Temporary reprieve? [Mimicking Monty] Ahem, erm Monty old chap, erm, continous excitement is, erm, ahem, erm, ah, oh, eh, what we're all about. [Sits down and puts his feet up on a stool and checks Maplin carefully to see that he's okay]

Stephen : [To Aphi] Do you know anything about the Bringer?

Aphi : No. Do you? [It is getting dark now, and BJORSETH pours out some tea, one cup for each person present. He and APHI are clearly fascinated at the cheeseratte that AUSTIN has passed to ALICE, which she takes a smoke of while looking up at the sky, apparantly very troubled, before taking out a notebook and making some notes, shaking her head and mummbling to herself with the cheeseratte hanging out in a most unbecoming fashion.]

Bjorseth : [Passing the tea around, nodding at the cheeseratte] What's that?

Aphi : So it's not very calming then? [Gently snatches it from Alice's mouth, with her so engrossed in the notebook that she doesn't even notice] Give me a try. [Takes a deep drag and holds it in, with a smile spreading across his face] [APHI is suddenly taken over by a coughing fit, bent over double, with all sorts of disgusting phlegmy sounds coming out of him until, eventually, he coughs up a huge glob of phlegm on the ground, before looking back up at the party, red of face and with a few tears in one eye from coughing.]

Aphi : [Big smile comes back] That was great!

Chastity : [Looking down at Aphi] Evidentially. [To Austin] I hope your happy with yourself, polluting the innocence of these minds.

Austin : [To Monty] Cheese is only illegal because it induces an alternate states of mind, which can lead to understanding and comprehending one's personal situation and life in way alternate to those presented to us by the mass media, and as such are outwith the control of our governments, and with out us, they are nothing. Could you imagine the proleteriat smoking cheese and suddenly realising that they do all the work whilst the rich party? [Chuckles gleefully]

Bjorseth : [Watching Aphi with barely restraint disgust] In Serenity, there are no rich, everyone is equal. [Turns to Alice] What's troubling you?

Alice : [Turning to the party] There's something wrong with the sky/

Chastity : What? [Looks up to see if there is anything unusual]

Alice : The stars, they're wrong! Look! [Points up so that it is impossible to see what she is talking about] They're just not where they're supposed to be. [As unlikely as this sounds, it may be true, but if it is, they are only in a very slightly different position.]

Chastity : Not where they are supposed to be in what way, dear? The stars do rotate round as the years pass, don't they? Or do you mean wrong as in slightly differently arranged, as if we were somewhere completely different, miles away from our usual area?

Alice : They do rotate as the years pass by, but it looks like they're way off. [To the others] I think we've gone a long, long way into the past.

Stephen : Just as well we've got this extra strong tea for the shock! [Knocks half a cup back, only to spit it out] Eauh! What the hell is that?

Bjorseth : Tea. A calm drink with a calm flavour.

Austin : [To Alice] How far back into the past? [Ponders] It must be less than a thousand years, if it is Contagion that is stuck in the volcano.

Alice : It's a [huge emphasis] long time. [Holds up her page of incomprehensible notes] See? At least a quarter of a million years! [Shakes her head] This doesn't make any sense!

Alice : [Highly insulted] A-hem! Yes I am sure! [APHI starts laying out some blankets, while BJORSESTH disappears behind the carriage. Everyone notices that each set of blankets appears to be for a double bed.]

Aphi : Hm, we could have a problem here. Who wants to triple up?

Austin : [To Monty, jokingly] You're sooo masterful! [Starts prepareing his evening wear, a silk quilted evening gown, silk embriodered eye covers, by Dada, Persilian felt slippers, Swellique nail covers (to protect his nails), etc] Who's taking first watch? I'll do the last, I love watching the sunrise in the morning, such a pitty it does it so eraly, I sleep in most days [Frowns, then to Aphi] Where is the bathroom please?

Aphi : [Stripping off his clothes, so he is just down to his underpants] Who's this propriety person? Sounds kind of strange to me.

Stephen : [Looks Aphi's muscled body up and down, before croaking] Fine. [BJORSETH returns, completely naked, just as APHI whips his own underpants off him. Fortunately, both are quite calm.]

Bjorseth : [Not in the slightest bit bothered at either his or Aphi's nakedness, addressing Alice] There really is something strange about you, I can't but my finger on it, but I did give the matter some thought while I was masturbating, although I'm still confused.

Alice : [Shrugs] Well, I don't know what to say, I - [realisation dawns as a look of horror comes over her face] What?

Chastity : [Trying to avert her eyes from the nakedness] With all this, erm, openness I think it best that Stephen take first watch.

Austin : [Looks at Aphi and Bjorseth] Looks like Stephen's dreams have come true. [Looks at Alice. To Alice] Perhaps you resemble some local [To Bjorseth, completely ignoring the nudity, as if it were commonplace] Might that be what you find so strange? [Adjusts one of his Swellique nail protectors so that it is nice and straight]

Stephen : [Unable to avert his eyes from the horrific scene] Yes, yes, whatever, I'll watch. [APHI and BJORSETH get into bed together.]

Bjorseth : [To Austin] No, it's a fairly safe bet that I've never met someone like her before. [Thinks for a moment] Would you like to share with us, Alice?

Alice : [Horrified] No! [Calms down] I mean, no. [Gets into one of the beds, muttering to the party members as she does] He did just say he was thinking about me when he masturbated, didn't he?

Chastity : [Taking off her sandals and carefully getting into the same bed as Alice] I fear your vanity may be interpreting his words. Technically he was thinking about a conundrum whilst he was masterb...behind the carriage. Perhaps he would have solved the riddle if he hadn't been distracting himself. [Turns over on her side, before realising she's faceing the bed with Bjorseth and Aphi in it, and turns onto her other side]

Austin : [Gets into the empty bed after getting dressd in his sleeping clothes] This all looks very cosy.

Alice : [Now facing Chastity, so that they are very, very close] If you say so. Now, I just want to see Monty and Aussie snuggle up together! [Turns over to look at the empty double bed]

Monty : [Now in his blue cotton pyjamas] Ahem. Yes. Very [distastefully] cosy. [Slips into bed, as far away from Austin as is possible. [Book IV, Act V, Scene VII. The Camp. APHI, BJORSETH, ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, STEPHEN and MONTY are here. Everyone but AUSTIN is still in bed, and all are now waking up.]

Aphi : [Leaping out of bed, still stark naked] Calm day, everyone! It is a beautiful morning.

Alice : [Still with her eyes shut, leaning up against Chastity] I don't care. I want to sleep a bit more, these pillows are just so soft and warm.

Aphi : [Puzzled] Pillows? We didn't have any pillows.

Chastity : [Gently prizing Alice off her. To Alice] If you don't mind dear. It wouldn't be proper for a lady in my position to be seen in this position. [Turns over to find Aphi towering over her. She closes her eyes] Oh dear. I think I'll have another brief minute here.

Alice : [Gives an audible gulp, but keeps her eyes shut] Actually, Monty, I think it might be more advisable for me to just pretend that none of that just happened. [Turns over and opens her eyes] Phew. [Takes out a tissue and blows her nose, but then takes a look at the tissue and holds it up, revealing it to be a huge pair of drawers] Hey! Who owns these?

Aphi : [Getting dressed with a smile] You lot sure love your clothes! And this guy [gives Stephen a playful prod with his foot] Haw! What a squirmer!

Chastity : [Grabbing back the underwear] I'll thank you not to soil my undergarments. It's just as well I've spares. [Looks at them nostagically for a moment] I wore these for my third husband, George, on our wedding night. [Blushes slightly]

Alice : [Gives a shiver of revulsion] I hate this place.

Bjorseth : [Leaping out of bed] Oh, no, Alice, I'm sure you don't. Take a few deep breaths. Diaphragmatic breathing helps reduce stress, [helpfully] and you'll find that this will also give you a time-out, long enough to make a rational reassessment of the situation.

Austin : [Sitting on a chair at the window with his feet up watching the sunrise, blowing smoke rings out of the window. To Bjorseth] The ladies and Monty are not used to sharing sleeping spaces, or seeing others naked. They don't get out much. [Gets up and goes over to Alice, offering her the cheeser] And, Alice does like a lie-in. [Stretches a little, then removes his nail protectors] What do you eat for breakfast around these parts?

Aphi : You lot sure are a strange bunch! We've got some plainbread, some plainfruit and some plainmilk, you're welcome to share it.

Alice : What does it taste like?

Aphi : [Waves his hand in an "okay" kind of way] It's pretty plain.

Bjorseth : [With a very irritated tut] Please forgive my horrendously rude friend. [Glares at Aphi] You say that like it's a bad thing.

Aphi : Where's he going?

Alice : [Still regarding Bjorseth somewhat suspiciously] Well, I hope he's not masturbating.

Aphi : Why?

Alice : [Embarassed] Well, you know, [mumbles something unintelligible, before speaking up loudly] Mm-mm! Plainbread, you say?

Monty : [Returning, now impeccably dressed] Yes, that plainbread sounds just fine, and some refreshing tea would also be welcome. I had a most disturbing dream last night. Last Conor me #10

Austin : [Looks at Monty, raising an eyebrow in suprise] A dream about a great big pulsing pink thing?

Monty : Well, as a matter of fact, I -

Stephen : [Interrupting] I did!

Monty : [Turning his gaze on Stephen for a moment] A-ahem. I did have that dream. It was an odd shape indeed.

Alice : Was it this? [Draws a shape on the ground with a stick]

Austin : [Looking at the shape Alice drew, then to Monty and Stephen] I hope it was.

Chastity : Yes, it looks like what I saw too, except this is a much cruder drawing, and the one in my dream didn't have a smiley face. [To Bjorseth] Do you know what that is?

Bjorseth : Sure. It's the heart of the beast.

Austin : [To Bjorseth, worriedly] Where have you seen it before?

Bjorseth : It has appeared in the dreams of many of our people, and has for a few months. It's only recently that we realised it was connected to the Beast. As no one knows what it really means, we were going to adopt the usual Serenity strategy.

Chastity : What's that?

Bjorseth : Ignore it and hope it goes away. Unfortunately, one idiot in the city has argued for it to be investigated, with some success amongst the people, and so we find ourselves here.

Bjorseth : Really? Why?

Alice : What idiot argued for the investigation?

Aphi : [Big smile as he juts his thumb at himself] That would be me, the uncalmest man in Serenity! [There is a slight pause.]

Alice : Er, is that a good thing?

Aphi : Yes.

Bjorseth : No.

Bjorseth : [To Monty] I see you also bear the weight of being the calmest amongst the uncalm.

Aphi : [With a big smile around the party] Sounds like we've got the right people for the job! [The entire group get onto the carriage and set off towards the volcano.]

Alice : How do we get into the volcano? Is there a front door?

Chastity : There's bound to be a cave entrance somewhere. Volcanoes always have them. [To Bjorseth] Is the volcano active?

Bjorseth : Yes, Sister, but only recently, as in the last few months. That's when we changed the name to The Beast.

Alice : What was it before that?

Bjorseth : The Cuddly Puppy. [The group are soon at the base of the volcano, Almost as soon as everyone is out and standing, there is a fairly large landslide, starting about thirty feet up.]

Stephen : [Screaming] We're all gonna die!

Stephen : [As Monty pushes him out of the way] Heeeelp! Now I'm being attacked! [Everyone manages to get out of the way, except for ALICE, who discovers that high heels aren't the most sensible things to wear during a rockslide. She falls to the ground, but BJORSETH immediately leaps on top of her, taking the brunt of most of the rocks that hit. However, when the slide subsides, he isn't too badly hurt.]

Alice : Bjorseth! You saved my life!

Bjorseth : [Still lying on top of her, face to face, and very, very close] That's okay.

Chastity : [Going to help Bjorseth and Alice up. To Bjorseth] That was very brave of you, young man.

Stephen : [Climbs out from under the carriage and glares jealously at Alice. before turning to Monty] If you're that adamant about getting your hands on me, all you had to do is ask!

Austin : [Wafting away some dust from the rock slide] It looks like it's going to be a long day. [To Bjorseth and Alice] If you two love birds have finished canoodling, perhaps Sister Chastity can tentd to Bjorseth's wounds? it's

Stephen : [With an irritatingly knowing smile] Sure you don't.

Bjorseth : [Pulling himself up to a kneeling position] Oh, I'm fine. [Looks to Austin] Does this mean Alice and I are in love? [Turns back to Alice] You know, there really is something about you, and it's not just the smell.

Alice : [Selfconsciously] Well, thanks very much, you know, I - hey! What smell? [The landslide has revealed a convenient cave entrance in the side of the volcano. It looks natural, and is about twenty feet high.]

Chastity : [Triumphantly pointing up at the cave antrance] See. There's the entrance. I knew Phili would provide us a way.

Stephen : [Dusting himself down] It's a pity he had to try and kill us to do it.

Bjorseth : [To Austin] Now that I'm in love, what do I do? [Thinks for a moment] I think I might feel like masturbating.

Alice : [With a wail of horror as she covers her face with her hands] Please make him stop! I'm starting to wish that I had been killed in the landslide.

Aphi : [Nods his head] Pretty crazy!

Austin : [With a faint hint of glee on his smirk. To Bjorseth] People often masturbate when they are in love. [Checks his nails] I a mutual and consenual fashion, of course. [Wanders casually over to the cave entrance and takes a look around]

Chastity : [To Bjorseth] Pay no attention to Austin. [Distastefully] Masturbation is a filthy habit which leads to blindness, hairy hands and eventually insanity. It should not be practiced, much less talked about. [Follows Austin up to the cave]

Aphi : [As everyone else heads towards the cave] Haw! Spinister Chastity, you are too much! I believe that you people really are completely different, what kind of world must it be where people don't tell the truth?

Bjorseth : [Watching Alice hurry away from him] I appear to have upset her, Austin. How else am I supposed to communicate my love for her?

Austin : [To Bjorseth, casually] Most guys just get her drunk and then snog her.

Chastity : [Suprised] They get her drunk first?

Austin : [To Chastity] Well, the polite ones do, I believe. [Looks at Chastity. Impaitently] I have no idea really, I'm just making it up. Can we go into the cave now or do you want to spend all day discussing how to cop of with Alice?

Chastity : [To Bjorseth] See, I told you so. [To Austin] Your low mind plumbs new depths, Mr. Sleaze. Just because we shared a bed doesn't mean I have any interest in that department. [Looks inside the cave] Lets see what lies within.

Alice : [Dismayed] Hey! [Annoyed to Bjorseth] Well, you don't just blurt out to a girl that she makes you want to masturbate! You've got to take your time, build up to it.

[The group enter the cave.]

Bjorseth : You mean, lie to her?

Austin : [To Bjorseth] No, she means that you should take more time and get to know each other better before telling eachother personl things.

Alice : [As the party enter the cave] A lot more time! [There is more lightning outside, crashing around the ground. This is the same type of blue lightening experienced by the party earlier in Scene V. The group form a marching order with APHI, MONTY and BJORSETH in front, followed by ALICE, AUSTIN and CHASTITY, and finally STEPHEN taking up the rear. Each of APHI and ALICE are holding a lighting torch. About thirty feet into the mountain, there is a sudden grinding of metal, and huge bars drop down, just in front, and about ten feet behind, trapping everyone in the corridor.]

Alice : [Rattling the bars theatrically] I just knew something strange like this was going to happen. [More lightning crashes around, this time deeper inside the cave, although it isn't clear where it is coming from. Suddenly, apparantly out of thin air, two women, TAMSIN LAVEAU and GENEVA HANNIGAN appear, about three feet above the ground, clearly involved in a fight. They crash to the ground, and give a cry of shock and pain as they do, causing the item that they are clearly fighting over to slide further up the cave from the party. TAMSIN is much taller, about 5' 10", and well built, although not particularly overweight, while GENEVA is quite small, around 5' 3", and a bit skinny.]

Alice : Right. Now, I have to admit, I didn't expect that.

Bjorseth : [Clearly doing his best to sound conversational] Are you often surprised? I think you were surprised when I told you about masturbating.

Alice : [Slaps her forehead with her hand] Time and a place, Bjor!

Chastity : [Waving her hand politely to Geneva and Tamsin] Hello? Yoo-hoo? Excuse me?

Chastity : [Turns to the rest of the group] At least someone else respects the cloth round here! [To Cheryl] We've been trapped here, can you help?

Tamsin : [Pulling herself away from Geneva] Get off me, you idiot! [Stares at the party for a moment] Who are you? [Looks around her, and spots something on the ground behind them] Hah! [Grabs the item they dropped earlier, but drops it again with a cry of pain] Ow!

Aphi : [Holds a hand up] Calm day.

Bjorseth : [Nods towards the two] Calm day.

Tamsin: [Recoiling ever-so-slightly at the sight of a nun, then composing herself when she notes the bars that have trapped the party. She needles them good-naturedly.] Hey, there! Trouble with the law? I know all about that. Tell me what you did and maybe I'll spring ya! [Nudges Geneva and grins.] Hey, Red. What do you suppose that group has done wrong? Something kinky and unspeakable, I'll bet. Some of them definitely have that look about them.

Alice : [Hanging onto the bars] Hey! Maybe it's [emphasis] you who's in jail, and not us!

Monty : Ahem. Good morning ladies. Perhaps you might be kind enough to inform us as to what is going on? [Cagily, responding to the party as a whole] Well, judging from the squawking Churchy's [she gestures to Chastity] making, sounds to me like at least some of you are convinced YOU'RE the ones in the lock-up. As to what's going on, me and my associate here, Red [she nudges Geneva], were discussing some personal business when we got--er--zapped here. By some mystic lightning. Or something like that. So you see, we can't be the ones in jail. What have I ever done to mystic lightning, after all?

Alice : [With a sigh of exasperation] What smell? [Looks Tamsin up and down] Well, there's your choice of clothes, to begin with!

Aphi : [Puts his hands up in a "calm down" gestures, clearly aiming it at everyone] Let's all just calm down a minute. We are adventurers, travelling into this volcano, when we were imprisoned. If you could just take a look behind you, I'm sure you'll find some sort of mechanism to release us.

Tamsin: [Looks at Alice, amused and not offended] Oh, yeah, good one, Princess. Let's watch the insults, since obviously it's up to me and Red here whether or not we haul you outta there or leave you to become a dainty snack for whatever nasties are crawling around this sinkhole. [To Aphi] Well, I'll take a look, but I have to say I'm not altogether convinced Red and I would be better off with you all out of the clink. What are you up to? Better yet, why should we help you?

Geneva : [Gives Tamsin a cold look] My name isn't Red, it's Geneva, and you'd better remember it unless you're looking for a dagger through your belly.

Aphi : [Laughs at Tamsin] Haw! She wants to know why she should help! [Looks around at the others] She's got to be from the same place as you! [Turns back, sahking his head and with a big smile] Why should I help you? Excellent!

Tamsin: [Offers a friendly handshake to Geneva, pointedly missing the coldness of her tone] Hey there, Geneva--the name's Tamsin. [Turns to party and says, all business] Got that everyone--Geneva [points to Geneva], Tamsin [points to herself]. Now, who are YOU people? What are you REALLY doing here? Nothing personal, but I'm not springing anyone until I get some answers.

Chastity : [Gesturing towards Tamsin] We appear to have met another member of the Jarl family! [To Tamsin] You should help us raise these bars because behind you is the insides of an active volcano, and the only known exit has two sets of iron bars and this group blocking it.

Geneva : [Shakes Tamsin's hand in a cold fish manner, and gives her a dirty look, before turning to Chastity] I'll take a look Sister. [Moves further up the corridor, but is clearly keeping a wary eye on Tamsin]

Aphi : [Confused] They don't seem to like each other, they seem to be [struggles to find the word] suspicious!

Bjorseth : Maybe they're in love and are lying about it? [To the two] Are you in love?

Tamsin: [Keeping an eye on Geneva, she'll pull a spare pair of underwear out of her bag and wrap it around her hand and attempt to discreetly snag the strange object she and Geneva were fighting over] If she manages to attempt this without Geneva noticing,

Tamsin: [To Bjorseth, with a grin] Doubtful. She's a bit scrawny for my tastes. If Geneva spots her attempt or is otherwise alerted,

Tamsin: [To Geneva, matter-of-factly] Don't get excited. I just didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle. We'll settle up later, I promise.

Chastity : [To Bjorseth] Two women can't be in love with each other, [hurriedly and awkwardly] and I don't think that this is the time or place to explain. [To Tamsin] What did you hurt yourself on a moment ago? I am a trained healer and may be able to help.

Tamsin: [Keeping an eye on Geneva, pulls something out of her bag and moves towards the item they had been arguing about earlier, but gives a grin at Bjorseth] Doubtful. She's a bit scrawny for my tastes.

Geneva : [Searching the area further back, turns and glares at Tamsin] What the hell are you doing? [TAMSIN has taken a spare pair of underwear out of her bag and wrapped it around her hand, clearly moving towards the item.]

Tamsin: [To Geneva, matter-of-factly] Don't get excited. I just didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle. We'll settle up later, I promise.

Geneva : Leave it alone, or I'll stab you through the belly. [To the others] Hey! I've found a lever here.

Bjorseth : [To the party] Whatever [nods at Alice] she has, they seem to have it too. Especially the big one. Maybe I love fat women?

Alice : Hey! I'm not fat!

Austin : [To Geneva] Where on earth did you learn to speak like that, it's more unbecoming of a lady [Checks his nails nonchalantly] it makes you sound like a pirate. [Ponders] We [gestures to the party] are goind down into the volcano to destroy an unspeakable evil, and save the world.

Tamsin: [To Austin, chuckling] Well, that's very nice, Highness. Didn't realize you all were so damned important. [To Geneva, curiously] So, you gonna throw that lever, or what?

Alice : [To Austin, whispering, but in the traditional Alice whisper that's actually substantially louder than her normal speaking voice] She must think we're some kind of royalty, she called me princess earlier on!

Geneva : [To Austin] That's right, and you'd better keep that in mind, [quick glance at Tamsin before looking back at Austin] your highness. [To Tamsin] You mean you're not gonna keep them there until you're satisfied with the answers they give you?

Tamsin: [To Geneva, amused] Oh, then we ARE gonna work together, then. Good to know. [Turns her attention back to the party] So, you're on a mission to save the world, eh? If that's true, then you must be good-hearted, noble folk. So how about you drop your weapons through the bars, as a show of good faith? You've got us outnumbered anyway, so if you're lying you'll still have a shot at taking us out, bare-handed. I suppose. [She grins at Geneva and draws her sword, adding to the group] Fair enough? I got nothing against you people, but a gal's gotta be careful in these dangerous times, you know?

Alice : [Defiantly] Not so! We know loads of people who've saved the world, and most of them were simply horrible people!

Aphi : [Suddenly no longer amused] Wait a minute, you don't trust us? [Turns to the others with open mouthed shock] She doesn't trust us? [Looks at Bjorseth and tries to speak, but can only make a wounded squeaking noise] Ee-ouk!

Bjorseth : I know, I know. [Gives Aphi a fraternal hug]

Geneva: Pffftt! Doesn't trust us?? 'Doesn't trust us' is me middle name... [realising that makes no sense at all, snaps at Aphi and Bjor to cover up her own confusion] And quit yer hugging or I'll run a dagger through yer! [Turns her attention to Tamsin]No, we are NOT working together, we are MERELY cooperating until we can get out of this godforsaken volcano. [Whips her dagger from her belt, and regards the rest of the party with narrowed eyes.]Now answer the... err.. lady... good and proper, or I'll run yer through with me dagger see? Apart from you, that is, Sister!

Tamsin: [To Geneva, rolling her eyes] Oh, forget it. Even with weapons, I don't think they could hurt us if they tried. Might as well just throw the switch so we can get on with it! [APHI is genuinely upset now, and is struggling to hold back the tears. Meanwhile, BJORSETH simply looks calmly back at GENEVA.]

Alice : [Calmly to Geneva] Oh really? How are you going to do that? Open up the bars so you can get at us?

Geneva: [Waving dagger threateningly] Arrrgghh! NO! I'm going to open up the bars so i can get to you! [In a great sweeping arc, attempts to pull the lever.] Aha!

Geneva: [Amazed] Hey! I did it! [Glaring back at the party] Now! What did I do with me dagger? [In a surprisingly swift and silent movement, the bars in front of and behind the party slide up.]

Alice : [Laughs] What an idiot! [Tries to pull out her sword] Hey! Where's my sword?

Stephen : On the other side, you're right handed, not left handed.

Aphi : [Still very emotional] And how are we to know? I can't believe it! Lies! Suspicions brought on by lies! Threats!

Bjorseth : [Dead calm] You'll have to excuse my emotional friend, but his whole world is crashing down around him.

Alice : [To Geneva] Thanks for letting us out. [Nods at where Geneva's dagger is on the floor] There's your dagger, but we'd appreciate it if you didn't stick it into anyone's belly. [Peers passed Tamsin, where some kind of shiny object can be seen, which clearly appeared at the same time as the two] What's that?

Chastity : [To Monty] All the same, if manipulated fate has brought us all together then it must be for a reason. [Steps away from the area where the bars come down. To Geneva] Thank you my dear. I can assure you that you have no need of your dagger for us.

Tamsin : [Steps in front of the object] It's ours. Me and Geneva own it.

Alice : Well, it - [ALICE is interrupted by another big sob from APHI.]

Alice : It looked like - [ALICE is interrupted yet again by APHI blowing his nose into a large hanky provided by BJORSETH.]

Alice : [Very quickly so she's hardly understandable] Lookslikeyouwerefightingoverit!

Aphi : [Looks at Monty with tears in his eyes] Isn't it? Isn't it? [Silence descends for a few moments, and the only sound being that of APHI's heavy breathing and occasional sniffle.]

Alice : Er, no. Bjor, can't you do something for him?

Bjorseth : [Dead calm] Frankly, I'm close to tears myself. An emotional wreck. I'm only surprised that I haven't burst into tears either. How do you people function like this?

Austin : [Raises an eyebrow. To Bjorseth] Function like what? What other way is there to function, but to resolve conflict?

Chastity : [To Austin] These two fellows have been living in a utopia where lies, secrets and dishonesty have no place. [To Bjorseth] You've probably never even heard of a lawyer before.

Alice : I know, Monty, doesn't it make you proud?

Geneva : Doesn't know what a lawyer is? Lucky guy! Where have they been living?

Chastity : Just a short distance away from here in a town called Serenity. It sounds idyllic. Apart from it's possibly located next to an active volcano housing an awakening evil that threatens to bring the world to an end.

Tamsin : Some people are never happy.

Alice : So anyway, that thing [nods at the item behind Tamsin] what is it?

Tamsin : It's ours, but I guess it's okay for you to take a look at it. Be careful, it's hot. [Kicks it across the floor, so it is between herself and Geneva and the party, although far enough away from the party that she or Geneva can grab it.] [The item is shaped similar to that drawn by ALICE earlier. It is encrusted in what appear to be priceless gems, and is giving off a slight blue glow. It is clearly worth an absolute fortune.]

Alice : Hot? [Leans forwards and touches it] Seems fine to me.

Stephen : It's...it's beautiful, I'm not surprised you were fighting over it! Where did you find it? [Gingerly touches the item]

Geneva : I found it in a temple, it - [GENEVA is interrupted by a cry of pain from STEPHEN.]

Stephen : Ow! It just burnt me!

Austin : [Looks at the artifact closely but does not touch it. To Alice] It may be that because you have not gone good or evil yet, that this does not burn you. It must be some kind of neutral, but magical key of somekind, worth a fortune, [Ponders] Several fortunes in fact. [Looks at Bjorseth] Perhaps that's what Bj finds strange about you, the fact that you are the link between good and evil, or what ever that mad gypsy woman said. [Stares transfixed at the gem key thing]

Tamsin: [To Austin, puzzled] And for those of us just tuning in--what mad gypsy woman?!

Alice : It's a complicated story. A mad gypsy woman told Chastity that apparantly I'm the [waves her heads around vaguely] link between good and evil, whatever that means. [Thinks] Well, maybe it isn't that complicated.

Stephen : Well, it's a little more complicated than that. The mad gypsy woman was apparantly in the future, and we weren't there. Except we were, but not us, but future usses, and except Chastity, although it was her future self, but not self really, just body, her present self, or past self if you do it relative to then.

Alice : Well, I guess it is complicated after all!

Chastity : [Nodding] Yes. And then there is the whole Heart of the Beast business.

Tamsin: [Sarcastically] Oh, well, glad I asked! Now it makes perfect sense. [More seriously, to Chastity] Er, Heart of the Beast business?

Tamsin: [Shrugs] Well, I really can't say about that one way or the other. I just got here, as you might have noticed. And who the hell knows the effect mystic lightning or static folical whatever-it-was-Red-called-it has on a person. What year is it? If it isn't 1280, then you might be on to something, there.

Alice : Good point, Monty. [To the new two] What year is it? Where were you just before this happened?

Stephen : Well, we think you may have travelled back a bit in time.

Geneva : How far back?

Alice : Somewhere between quarter of a million and three hundred thousand years.

Aphi : [Steps forward to look at the item] It's beautiful. [Reaches out and picks it up, turning to show it to the rest of the party] Any idea what it is?

Austin : [To CHastity] Didn't that gypsy woman who we will meet in the future tell us that we need to find the Emperor, as only he can destroy the beast?

Geneva: [mumbles] Art of the Yeast?

Tamsin: [To Alice, trying to remain calm] Well, that's pretty far back in time, I'd say. How'd you figure that out, exactly? [To Austin] What beast?!

Alice : [Glances at Geneva for a moment before turning to Chastity] I though you said she told you we'd need the Emporer to protect us? [APHI shows the item around, beaming broadly, but it is clear that everyone leans back from the heat.]

Aphi : Isn't it beautiful? Can't you just feel its power?

Bjorseth : [The last one Aphi comes to, and the only other not to flinch from it] Yes, it is quite amazing. [Takes it from Aphi and holds it close to a torch to get a good look at it]

Alice : How did I figure it out exactly? [Shows her notebook to Tamsin, which is covered in all kinds of incomprehensible mathematics] It was quite simple really, the change in time is a function of the trigonometric variances in the planetary bodies.

Bjorseth : [Impressed as he too looks at the notepad] And what does that mean?

Alice : Oh, Bjor! It means that those stars that form the shape of a bunny rabbit were in the wrong place.

Chastity : The gypsy did say that we needed the emperor to protect us, but could tell us more. The only link to emperor is the tarot card emperor tarot card with Harvey's image on it we found. [Turning to Geneva] What are you talking about?

Geneva: [Irritaby and fliching from the light] Yes yes, Mr's Hug-Em-Lots, we can see that it's AMAZING. I've seen such amazing things on a parrot's lice, but it's [Stops for a second and then screams loudly, clearly frightened] It's Part Of The Least!

Geneva: [Shakes her head] Nothing, Sister. Nothing obviously of any importance. [Covertly shakes her dagger in her belt and says quietly, to herself] Aarrrgh!

Alice : [To Geneva] Yeah, what [emphasis] are you talking about?

Aphi : Scared of the funny heart, eh? [Takes the item from Bjorseth and pretends to throw it at her] Bam! Just kidding! [Holds it down away from the party, but clearly not trying to hide it or pocket it] By the way, his name isn't Mr. Hug-em-lots, it's Bjorseth Bjorsethsen. I'm Aphi Liburni, and these are [introduces the party in turn] Austin Sleaze, Stephen Hitchberg, Monty Giles, Alice Bassett-Short and Spinster Chastity.

Chastity : [To Aphi] That's [emophsis] Sister Chastity! [To Geneva] Have you seen a coded message with stick figures? Some of them holding flags?

Aphi : [Now seemingly in fantastic form, gives Chastity a pretend punch] Haw! I'm just funnin' with you Sister, didn't mean any harm by it.

Bjorseth : We've seen a message with those figures on it.

Tamsin: Er, anyone else having weird dreams?

Alice : Tam, we're having weird everything! But now that you mention it, we all dreamed about that shape, and the two guys were already familiar, they said it was the heart of the beast, go on, Bjor, tell her.

Bjorseth : It's the Heart of the Beast.

Chastity : We all have. Last night most of us seem to have had a dream showing us something pulsing that was the same shape as the item you found. [Gestures towards the item Aphi is holding] Curious that only some people can touch it. Perhaps those who have no been tainted by darkness can.

Alice : So, Chastity. Can you touch it? [Tries to suppress a smile]

Tamsin: [Grins at Alice, amused, and hands Chastity a pair of underwear and jokes] Here, Churchy! Wrap this around your hand before you pick it up, just in case!

Alice : It's just as well she didn't want to use one of your pairs, Stephen, they'd be far too skimpy!

Stephen : It's just as well she didn't want to sue one of your pairs, Alice, no one would be able to find any.

Chastity : I doubt I'll be immune from tee items burn, as I was possibly infected by the dark during the whole spirit travelling "From within it consumes" episode. [Takes the underwear from Tamsin, wraps her hand and gingerly touches the item]

Chastity : [Unwrapping her hand and returning the undergarment] Quite obviously. [Even through the extra thick thermal undies, CHASTITY clearly finds this uncomfortably warm, and lets go again.]

Alice : Sure, Chas. That's what it'll be.

Stephen : So far only Alice and the two masterbaters have been able to hold the heart. I wonder if only simpleminded people are able to touch it?

Geneva: [Sniggers] Good thinking, Muscles. [Glances at Alice] You might be onto something there.

Chastity : Come now, Mr. Giles, you make it sound like the party courts disaster.

Alice : [To Stephen] In that case, Stephen, why don't [emphasis] I hold it? [Smiles with satisfaction] Gah! I mean, why don't you hold it?

Bjorseth : [Calmly] Why doesn't Aphi hold it?

Geneva: Well, then who's the most trustworthy? [Considers] Or there's always paper, scissor, rock.

Aphi : [With a sad look as he shakes his head] What a terrible world you people must live in that there is such distrust. [Turns angrily to Alice] I would rather stab you in the eye with this than give it to you.

Alice : What?

Aphi : Bam! Just kidding. There y'go. [Hands it over] Right, looks like we should keep heading this way. you

Bjorseth : The device is dangerous to you, not to us. What has upset us is your behaviour, not our proximity to the device. We could describe before we even saw it. [Gives a strange, enigmatic smile] And we know what it does. [Broadens into an even bigger smile] From within it consumes.

Geneva: [Her tone darkening] From within what consumes? First of the nun said it. [Flashes a respectful look at Chastity] Then this guy's saying it. [Taps her dagger meaningfully] Stop talking in riddles and be straight!

Alice : [Looks at Geneva's tapping before turning to Stephen] Looks like you're screwed!

Bjorseth : [Dead calm] Okay, I'll talk straight, seeing as how Aphi and I are the only straight ones here [continues over the sniggering of Alice, Austin and Stephen] This trinket will not be sought by anyone, it seeks them.

Aphi : [Gasp] You mean?

Bjorseth : Yes, it is the - [BJORSETH is interrupted by a crash of lightning similar to the one encountered before GENEVA and TAMSIN arrived, but this time the lightning is white.]

Alice : More people arriving? [Book IV, Act V, Scene VIII. Outside the "Primrose Valley Happy Place for Crazy People". ALICE, AUSTIN, MONTY, CHASTITY and STEPHEN are here, all looking twenty five years older. It is late at night and lashing rain, with very high winds. The party have just got to the door.]

Alice : [Now in her mid forties, wearing a sodden fur coat over on Oko Chanel suit] Great carriage, Austin. [Looks at the sign beside the door] Maybe we can check Chastity in here? Or maybe ourselves for being stupid enough to go on this trip in the first place. I can't take any more shocks.

Voice : [From above] Look out below! [GENEVA is falling from somewhere above, and lands on the party, just as the door opens. Standing there is THE DEVIL, and she looks pretty angry, if not quite what one would expect the devil to look like.]

Devil : Who dares to enter my domain?

Austin : [Wearing shades, by Max Nimbus, an Ely Greenitch evening suit and a black silk shirt, aligator skin shoes, panda skin gloves and a gold thread tie, all by Eve Stirwin. Looks at the Devil] Well it's not the postman. [Looks away from the devil with an 'oh my god what is she wearing', expression]

Devil : Do not toy with me, mortal! [Prods Austin with her fork.] [The fork is clearly made out of painted cardboard, and is getting a little soggy from the rain. It barely makes an indentation in AUSTIN's suit.]

Alice : [To Geneva] Who the hell are you? An escaped crazy person?

Geneva: [Attempting to spring to her feet and simultaneously whip her dagger out.] What the?!? [Looks at the party.] Arrrgh! What happened to you? [Focuses on Chastity, her expression becoming one of amazement.] Arrggh! Sister? [Notices the devil] What the hell are you doing here?

Geneva: [Clearly very confused.] Who the hell am I? What the hell are you talking about? [Narrows her eyes at Alice.] Do you still have the Heart of the Beast thingy? [Grips her dagger for reassurance.]

Alice : I'm sure I don't know who you are? What beast?

Devil : [Loudly] I bear the number of the Beast! I am the evil one, I will cut your hearts out and feast upon them as you watch. [Waves her fork some more, even though it's starting to sag a little] The time for darkness is upon us.

Alice : [Glances at her watch] Well, it is half eleven at night.

Geneva : Of course I'm not a resident! What the hell is going on? Don't any of you know who I am?

Alice : [Rolls her eyes] Of course we don't. We would hardly have asked if we did, would we?

Chastity : [To Geneva] I know who you are, Geneva.

Austin : [To Geneva] Of course we don't know who you are! How dare you insinuate that we mingle with the prole! [Snappily to the Devil] May we come in please, we have much to disscuss, and the locals seem a little rowdy [Nods towards Geneva].

Geneva : [Points at Chastity] She knows who I am.

Chastity : Of course I do, she's Geneva, we met here with Aphi and Bjorseth, and that other girl, Tamsin.

Devil : [Tries to prod Austin with the fork, but fails due to it being completely soaked] Away from here, before you feel my wrath. [Enter SYBIL SCALES, from inside the door, stepping in front of THE DEVIL.]

Sybil : [Gushing] Oh, my dear people, what [emphasis] has happened to you? Won't you please come in? [Steps back, almost standing on the Devil as she does, causing her to step also]

Chastity : [To Sybil] Thank you, very much. [To Alice] You couldn't give me a hand, could you dear? These steps you know. [Quietly to Alice] What do you mean you don't recognise Geneva?

Alice : [Helping up Chastity] I mean I don't recognise her. [Enter TAMSIN, also from behind SYBIL, and does a double take on the party.]

Tamsin : What the hell happened to you lot?

Devil : They know the wrath of the Devil!

Chastity : [To Tamsin] We've gotten older, obviously. It's happned before. What happened to you? Did you have anything to do with Geneva falling on us? I could have broken a hip!

Tamsin: [To the Devil, nodding knowingly] That sounds about right. [To the party, all business] So, the Devil here turned you old and [looking at Austin] fruity?

Austin : [To Tamsin] Well, we know about her awful dress sense certainly. Who are you?

Alice : [To Tamsin] You mean, fruitier?

Devil : [Tries to squeeze in between Tamsin and Sybil] Make way for the dark lady!

Sybil : [Irritated, to the devil] Please behave yourself. [Smiles at the party] Please, come in out of the rain.

Tamsin: [To Austin] What, did you bump your head or something?! [Slowly, as if speaking to a very slow, dim-witted child] Tam-sin. I wouldn't be talking about the way other people are dressed, by the way, Your Highness. [Everyone slowly trudges in.]

Geneva : Tamsin? [Laughs] I never thought I'd be glad to see you. It looks like it's just you and me who look the same, although the Sister recognised me.

Devil : [Slaps Sybil with her sodden sword] Do not ignore me!

Austin : [Indignantly to Geneva] I am neither deaf nor royalty, and just why do you think I should know who you are? Have you not experience time travel before? Just because we may, or may not, as the case may be, have or will met or meet, respectively, in the past, which may or not be the future past or past present, or past future, does not mean that I know you, or owe you any money! So, quit scrounging and leave us be!

Tamsin: [To Austin, irritated] Watch your tone there, Highness. We're just trying to figure this out, too, you know. You know us. Or you did a few minutes ago. When it was the past. I guess. It's a bit hard to explain. You just kind of have to roll with it.

Geneva : [Does a handbags at twenty paces move to Austin] Excuse me, your majesty, you may not be deaf but you sure are dumb. [Juts her thumb at Tamsin] She's the one who called you that. [Plays with her dagger] Now, maybe while most people you meet are owed money by you, we aren't.

Sybil : [Still smiling] Aren't we all very excited? I'm afraid we only use indoor voices here. [The party are in a small hallway of what is clearly a hospital. There are terrible sounds of moaning and screaming coming from everywhere.]

Devil : [Shouting] I will not be ignored, or you will feel my wrath! [Points angrily at the party]

Alice : [To Tamsin, as she takes off her sodden fur coat] And when in the past do you claim this happened? [Calmly hangs her coat over the Devil's arm]

Tamsin: [To Alice] It was 1280. June 6th, if that matters. [To the Devil, but giving a wink to Alice] Hey, there, watch where you point that thing. We're all already plenty wicked, I promise you. All of us big-time sinners. Your work here is done.

Chastity : Actually, dear, it wasn't 1280. That was where you came from [emphasis] before we met you in the volcano. We'd already estimated it was perhaps somewhere between quarter of a million and three hundred thousand years earlier than that date. [To Alice] That was by your calculations anyway.

Devil : Oh, okay. [Hangs up the coat and walks off]

Alice : I doubt it, Chastity, I would hardly have given such a vague estimate. So let me get this straight, the three of you claim your real time was 1280, but you met hundreds of thousands of years ago when we travelled back from that time too? So why don't we remember it?

Chastity : [Sighs] I have no idea. We were with two nice but starnge fellows called Aphi and Bjorseth. One of them was holding a starngely shaped, jewel encrusted object they claimed was fabled Heart of the Beast.

Alice : The heart of the beast? Are we supposed to have heard about it?

Austin : [To Alice] Yes, remember it was the translation of the stick men cryptogram that the strange gypsy woman gave us fifteen years ago. [To Geneva] I didn't say I owed anyone any money and I don't I was saying that you were trying to extort money from us, and I'm certainly not royalty, how dumb are you?

Chastity : Don't you remember? We were on our way South, about ten years after Peter died, when we stopped at a Gypsy fortune teller. She gave us some strange babble, and then draw a coded phrase made out of stick men. Austin thought it may translate as Heart of the beast. Austin : [To Geneva] I didn't say I owed anyone any money and I don't, I was saying that you were trying to extort money from us, and I'm certainly not royalty, how dumb are you? [Exasperated] Am I wearing a crown? You proles can't even produce good sarcasm. [Fold his arms in a huff and checks his nails briefly]

Geneva : [To Tamsin, nodding at Austin] What an idiot. He seemed much better before. Then again, it looks like time hasn't been kind to him. [Takes out her dagger] Do you want me to extort money from you?

Stephen : Gypsy fortune teller? [Looks around] Did you all go south ten years ago and not tell me?

Sybil : Stick figures? My goodness, isn't that a coincidence?

Tamsin: [To Geneva, exasperated] I still think he must have gotten a nasty bump on the head or something. Try knocking him on the head again, see if it helps. [To Sybil] What, you know something about the stick figures?

Chastity : [To Stephen] Has Peter been dead twenty years now? [To Sybil] Yes, what's so coincidental about stick figures.

Stephen : Twenty five years, Sister.

Sybil : The fact that all of our customers are drawing them on everything they can get their hands on.

Tamsin: [To Sybil] 'Customers,' eh? You mean those wailing, weeping folks behind closed doors? What exactly are they here to 'consume,' then? Pain and torture?

Sybill : [Still smiling broadly] Consume? I'm afraid I haven't the [emphasis] slightest idea what you're [emphasis] talking about. And yes, we look upon our people here as customers. This is a service oriented venture, with extra special effort going into quality and guarantees of long lasting results. We find it demeaning to treat our customers with anything other than total respect.

Alice : Then isn't it a trifle indelicate to call the place Primrose Valley Happy Place for Crazy People?

Sybill : Indeed, but the committee formed to decide on a new name hasn't had a chance to meet yet as we're having difficulty finding a group with the required cross section of minorities.

Geneva: [To Sybill] Would you have an example of these stick figures you be talking about? [To Tamsin] And why did we appear here, at this point in time? THere must be something we are destined to find. And when we've found it, how do we get back to our proper time? It looks like the Sister there doesn't have a whole lot of time left. And what happened to Alphi and Bjor anyways? [Stroking the hilt of the dagger lightly]

Alice : [To Geneva, clearly bothered by the dagger] Well, incredibly, your story makes some sense, especially after Chastity talked about it before. Maybe there was something you all had in common in the past time? Something you all did? Somethin -

Sybil : [Interrupting with an annoyingly bright breezy manner] Here we go. There are actually two, or possibly three different pictures. This is the first one. [SYBIL holds up a piece of paper with a series of figures drawn on it. This is the same sequence of figures as drawn by SHARON, previously.]

Stephen : Dancing men! Maybe it's the steps to a new dance. [Starts trying to dance out the steps]

Devil : [Coming back and hitting him with her fork] Stop that.

Geneva: [Incredulously] You're all mad! [Looks at the stick figures] Perhaps it's not a dance at all. What is that thing that he's holding in his hands? I wonder what would happen if you made those movements holding the Heart of the Beast. If, of course you could hold it without it burning you. [To Alice] Of course my story makes sense - who'd be crazy enough to make it up?

Tamsin: [To Geneva, chuckling] Might want to watch the crazy talk in this place, Red.

Geneva: [Through clenched teeth.] The name's Geneva. [Slowly] Gen-eeev-aaah. NOT red.

Tamsin: [Amused] Calm down, Red.

Geneva: Arrrggghhh. [Pats her dagger warningly.] Dagger. Belly. Yours. [Addressing everyone now, not just Tamsin.] So, where to from here. Just how do we get back to our own time.

Alice : [To Geneva] Who'd be crazy enough to say it? Well, just about anyone except myself and Austin. [Looks around and leans in confidentially] And, just between you and me, Genevanotred, sometimes I wonder about him.

Alice : [To Chastity] Was this the same drawing you saw before? If those guys with the boxes denote spaces, it could spell out Heart of the Beast. [To Geneva] I think we need to see those other messages, and maybe talk to some craz- [sees a reproachful look from Sybil] some customers. Last from Conor #38

Geneva: [Seriously stressed.]Arrrgh! And when did you blondie, get so old? Look it's Geneva.. Gee. Eee. Enn. Oh forget it! I guess it's Red!

Alice : [In a cross between nonchalant and haughty, as she takes off her gloves] My name, Red, is Dr. Bassett-Short-Wooster. I got this old in the last twenty years or so. When did you get so short tempered?

Alice : Ask a question that makes sense and I'll answer that.

Sybil : Remember, everyone, that [speaks up a bit to be heard over the shouting from the other rooms] we must remain calm in where, or we may have to spend a spell in the time out room.

Austin : [To ALice] The stick men are indeed a cryptogram, and it does read 'Heart of the Beast'. [To Sybil, dripping in calmness] Can you show us the other stick men that have been drawn please.

Sybil : Of [drawn out] course, my good fellow. Here we go. [SYBIL hands out another sheet, which contains considerably more characters, which are split over two lines.]

Sybil : How [emphasis] awfully clever you must be. Oh look, this one starts with a "the"! Gosh, isn't this exciting?

Geneva: Stephen! I think you need to start dancing again. [Claps her hands twice and fast.] Double time!

Chastity : [To Geneva] Oh please don't encourage him. With those limb wrist flailing about he'll have someones eye out. [To Sybil] There wouldn't be any chance of a seat and a cup of tea, would there? I'm not as young as I used to be. [To Geneva] I'm just glad that that Aphi is here, what with his Spinster quips!

Geneva: [To Chastity; puzzled] But you are not a spinter, you are married, aren't you? To Philli?

Stephen : You got it, Red. [Looks at the sheet and starts dancing out the steps, singing in time to YMCA] T, H, E, space! Something, something, something, T, H, space!

Sybil : [Gushing] Of course you can have some tea, Sister. [Narrows her eyes slightly at Stephen] And perhaps some valium for those who need it. [SYBIL brings the party to a nearby room, full of plush couches and luxurious furnishings. There are all kinds of exotic looking coffee and tea makers here, with a huge table stacked to overflowing with doughnuts and cakes.]

Alice : [Looking over the top of her shades] Wow! Are you expecting the police or something? [Hums the tune of YMCA to herself]

Sybil : Oh, no, we believe that is important for the facilitators and customers to have some comfort to help them relax after the stresses and strains of a full day.

Chastity : That is correct. [Smiles genuinely] I knew I'd like you.

Austin : [Writes down the cypher in his note pad] Hmm, Interesting. [Begins making notes as he nibbles carefully on a donut, very slowly]

Chastity : [Pours herself a cup of tea, picks up a piece of shortbread, and pauses before putting the biscuit down] My, what a pretty paper doily. [To Sybil] Do the pati...customers make these? [Puts the biscuit on the plate and settles down on the nearest comfy chair] Aaah. Last from Dom #51

Geneva: [Cutting a gingerbread man in half with her dagger and before lifting top half of said gingerbread man to her mouth.] We're forgetting what we're here for! [Turns to Chastity, making the sign of Philli.] If that lightning strikes again, you won't be here sister! [Turns to Austin.] And you... well let's just say.... hmmm... well let's just say at the rate you're eating that pink iced donut... well it will still be here!

Austin : [Frowning, put the pad down] Well, it probably decrypts to 'the south needs you in Cachexia'. Which fits in with what Chastity has told us so far. [Puts the donut down with only a small nibble missing]

Alice : [Coughing from having eaten too much] So the Southerners are sending the message? Or someone else? And why did they appear in two different times? [Blows her nose and looks in the handkerchief] Wow!

Austin : [To Alice] Who knows, the message could also read 'the south keeps you in Cachexia'. What ever it is it's diffocult to decipher.

Monty : So. Do we believe these pictures are warnings or pleas?

Tamsin: [Looking around warily] If you ask me, they gotta be pleas. I mean, you think the 'customers' in this hellhole have the presence of mind to warn other people?! They need help.

Chastity : [Waving a half eaten piece of shortcake] I don't see how it makes a difference. It has to be investigated. The problem still remains that the majority of us are in no fit state for adventures. [Takes a bite from the biscuit]

Austin : [To Tamsin] "Heart of the Beast", doesn't sound like a plea, they seem to be strangely cryptic clues, the creator of the messages may be luring us into a trap.

Tamsin: [Nodding] Good point, Churchy. [To Austin, in a lower voice] Could be. You heard Sybill playing innocent about 'consuming' and whatnot. Maybe these 'customers' aren't what they seem, if you know what I mean.

Austin : [To Sybill] Have you encountered the phrase 'From within it consumes'? DO any of your sub... customers mention any such phrases? Last fro Dom #61

Alice : [To Tamsin] Maybe she wasn't playing innocent? Maybe she is?

Sybil : [To Austin] No, I'm afraid not, I've never heard that phrase. Would you like to see the other drawing?

Stephen : [Still jigging out the code] They're not specific enough to be warnings, are they? Heart Of The Beast! Hardly a warning. Now if it said something like "Wear Flares" then we'd know we're dealing with some sort of deviant! Last fro Colin #061 & Conor #62

Chastity : [To Sybil] Yes please. It would have anything to do with sort of joined up blobs, would it?

Tamsin: [To Stephen, sarcastically] Right, how many 'Beasts' do you know of that are good guys?! Last fro Sam #063

Austin : [To Sybil] Yes, please show us the other drawings and any other material you have, that may be of interest.

Stephen : [To Tasmin] Hey, the sort of places I frequent, 'Beasts' are an absolute bonus!

Stephen : I've got a few pictures of a couple of men with 'Beasts' I can show you later, if you like!

Chastity : I think I will give that little exhibition a miss. I take it the beasts in these pictures have one than one back, and that is something that shouldn't be viewed in public, or in certain cases at all!

Alice : Actually, Tamsin, what you should be interested in are the good guys who can be beasts.

Monty : Ah-ahem! [Quietly] Let's not advertise to this person just how many of us should be incarcerated as "customers" in this institution. [SYBIL brings the party across the hallway.]

Sybil : This is our special room. What we have found is that although most customers have been drawing the first picture, only a couple have been drawing the second. Typically, they are of the more disturbed variety.

Tamsin: [Retorts to Alice] Don't tell me what I should find interesting, Princess! [To Stephen, in a lower voice, winking] We'll talk later. [Turns her attention back to Sybil and the 'customers.']

Alice : [Recoils as though struck] Excuse me, young lady, but I'll thank you not to take that tone with me! If you're more interested in talking to Stephen about his gay buddies, then fine, off you go, but I'll thank you not to turn your unchannelled anger on me. [To the others] Honestly, it's like having Faetan back in the party!

Sybil : There are four extra special customers here, Susan Strange, Nince Passeem, Peggy Sue and Mad Albert. This is our ultra secure room, so I will have to ask that you leave all weapons, pointed objects, tobacco, cheese, liquids, breakable items and any items that could be employed as either garrotes or ropes outside. They have been drawing the - [SYBIL looks in through a small window in the door and gasps in shock. The party can see the four people she mentioned, but there is a fifth person there, a man, with his back to the door. All five are sitting around a table, and he appears to be smoking a cigarette.]

Sybil : I don't believe it!

Chastity : [To Sybil] There there, dear. Its alright. We all miss-count now and again. Who's the fifth person?

Sybil : I did not miscount! [Opens the door] What's going on here? [The man, IVAN MARSTERS, turns around and gives a big smile and friendly wave.]

Ivan : We were just wondering if there's anything to eat. These crayons are bit gristly, except the green ones, of course, right guys? [Broadens his grin so everyone can see that there are lots of pieces of green crayon caught in his teeth. The room looks secure, and there are thick wire meshses over each of the windows.]

Others : [Mad Albert, Susan, Peggy Sue and Nince] Yes, yes! [Other sounds of general agreement]

Tamsin: [To Sybil, uneasily observing the five Crayon-Eaters] Hey, mind telling us why these are 'extra special customers'?

Chastity : [Nodding] And could you shut the door first, just in case? I take it the security is not to stop people getting [emphasis] in?

Austin : [Tamsin] They get the special green crayons, hence special customers. [Looks at the writings on the walls]

Sybil : [To Tamsin] That's classified. However, I can tell you that [points at Ivan] he should not even be here! [To Chastity] The security is there to do both!

Ivan : [Takes a drag of his cigarette, which, judging by the odd colour smoke it produces is neither tobacco nor cheese, before pointing out each of the others in turn] This here's Peggy Sue, she's a thirty two year old woman who thinks she's a cheerleader.

Peggy : [Shakes her pom-poms about] Goooooooo crazies!

Ivan : Susan Strange, who's just, well, very strange. [SUSAN says nothing, but looks daggers at the party.]

Ivan : Nince Passeem, he thinks he's a heavy weight boxer who thinks he's Napolean.

Nince : Not tonight, Josephine, because tonight I defend my title against Forge Georman.

Ivan : [Clapping his hand on Mad Albert's shoulder] And this beauty is Mad Albert. He's so evil that his parents put him up for adoption three years before he was born. [The walls are covered in crayon drawings of another set of figures. This one is different to those seen previously.]

Tamsin: [To the Crayon-Eaters, in a friendly tone] Hey, there. Good to meet you. [To Ivan] And what's your story?

Geneva: [Sneering at Susan Strange before turning to Ivan.] Yes, this should be interesting...

Susan : [Leaving the party in some doubt as to whether she is male or female as she glares at Geneva] What the hell is wrong with you?

Ivan : Easy Sue, those Hannigan girls are always very tetchy. [Takes a drag of his cigarette before turning to Geneva] I'm here to save the world.

Geneva: [To Susan, Gripping the handle of her dagger but not drawing it.] Easy, sister. [To Chastity.] No not you Sister...her... [To Susan.] Easy, sister, I'm not the one locked up in a loony bin. [To Ivan.] You so are NOT here to save the world.

Ivan : [To Geneva] Oh? [Puts on a "thinking hard" face] Then I guess I'm here to destroy the world. [All the patients other than PEGGY SUE run around screaming in panic.]

Peggy : [Irritatingly chirpy] Gooooooo destruction! Yay! [Shakes her pom poms]

Geneva: [Chuckling, to Monty.] Normal? [To Ivan.] And just how, pray tell, do you expect to either save/destroy the world? [To everyone.] And will someone stop that cheerleader before I place her pompoms where the sun don't shine?

Peggy : Goooooooooooooo [blaringly loud and cheerful] sunshine! Rah! [Shake-a-shake-a-shake]

Ivan : No, Monty, I'm not a normal part of the world. [Points at the party] I'm here to save you.

Alice : Save us? You're going to save all of us.

Ivan : [Glances passed Alice at Chastity before looking back to her] Yeah, sure, why not? All of you.

Chastity : And also what from?

Ivan : [Turns a card that Mad Albert has been drawing on, and faces it towards Chastity] Whatever this says. [To Monty] It depends on just how dangerous [holds the card up to Monty] this is, Monts.

Alice : Hey! How did you know his name?

Ivan : Someone told me, Alice.

Geneva: [Tapping her fingers warningly on her dagger.] You'd better start answering our questions! [Adds hastily.] Or else.

Chastity : [Peering at the card Ivan is holding up] What's that say again? I've not got my reading glasses on.

Austin : [Stops reading the writings and drawings that he has been reading since the party entered the room. To Monty, frowning] Why do you always ask me to do things that I am doing anyway? I thought you were supposed to be a watcher! If you watched more carefully you would see that I was already looking at the pictures. [Snorts indignantly and goes back to looking at the glyphs, taking notes]. Some people!

Chastity : [Gets some glasses out of her packet puts them on and peers at the drawings on the wall as well next to Austin, occasionally glancing at his notes] I believe these may say "Beware of the screamers". Oh well, too late for that!

Geneva: That's a lot of drawings to only mean four words!

Alice : Actually, I think it's a lot of drawing to only mean three words!

Ivan : [Gets up, with a big smile] Or what, Hannigan? What you gonna do? [To Monty] An old friend of yours sent me. A guy by the name of Darius. [Holds the cigarette out to the party] Crayonette anyone?

Chastity : Three words? [glances at another drawing before touching the one she was looking at. The "extra word" smudges and strings out in some gooey form] Eugh! I don't what this is but it isn't a word after all! I can only hope its only phlegm! [Grimaces as she sniffs her hand and then wipes it on one if the other pictures. To Ivan] Darius? How do you now that charlatan?

Ivan : [Big smile] You know, he said you'd react like that when you heard that we're friends. I'm a knight, Chas, just like you. Well, maybe not just like you, but you know what I mean.

Sybil : [Stepping into the room] Please! This is entirely inappropriate! [To the party] Do you know this person? I must insist he must leave immediately.

Peggy : Gooooooooooooo immediately!

Austin : [Nodding in aggrement with Sybil] Good idea, lets get out of here [Grimaces at the phlegm on Chastity's hand]

Ivan : What's the panic, Austin? Darius said you'd be eager to distance yourself from anything that involved him, but I didn't think you'd be heading off this fast. [Takes another drag off his crayonette and grimaces] You know, I can't really recommend the blue.

Peggy : [Dancing out a cheer] Austin's quick, Austin's fast, we need Chastity in the past! Raaaah!

Tamsin: [To Ivan] Yeah, I'll take a crayonette. Slip it through the door, would ya?

Ivan : Sure. [Holds out three of them] I've got red, yellow and green. So what are you doing with this lot?

Tamsin: [Casually takes a red crayonette and says to Ivan] Saving the world, I think. I'm still a bit new, you know, so the job description's a bit fuzzy.

Sybil : [Reaches out to grab Ivan's arm] That's quite enough out of you, young man!

Ivan : [Dodges and grabs Sybil's arm, hard and clearly hurting her] No. That's enough out of you. Back off. [Pushes her free, before turning to Tamsin with a smile and carrying on nonchalantly] Here y'go. Don't worry about it, this mob have been at it for years, and they still don't know what the job description is.

Austin : [Stops in the doorway. Most calmly to Ivan] I don't know, what is the panic? Are you panicing? [To Chastity] Sister Chastity may well be correct, the cypher can either be 'beware the spreaders', which seems a little unlikely, or beware the screamers', most probable, but not much use to us. [Ponders. To Peggy] Why is Chastity needed in the past?

Ivan : [Big smile at Austin] Man, Darius was right about you. [Shakes his head chuckling to himself] You're the one who wanted to get out of here, Austin, so why don't you go?

Alice : [To Geneva] Do you know this person?

Geneva : [Scowling] No.

Alice : But he called you Hannigan, is that your name?

Geneva : [Scowling] Yes.

Alice : [To Ivan] How did you know her name?

Ivan : Lucky guess. [To Chastity] Sister Chastity may well be correct, the cypher can either be 'beware the spreaders', which seems a little unlikely, or beware the screamers',

Tamsin: [To Ivan, conversationally, trying not to react to his manhandling of Sybil] So, why are you here? You obviously aren't being kept here. Just visiting?

Austin : [To Ivan] I shall do as I please, as and when I choose. [To Geneva] Are you related to a Ms Spruce Hannigan?

Tamsin: [To Austin] While we're at it, who's Darius?

Austin : [To Tamsin] Well, he's a bit like Ivan, except Darius is more obnoxious, smarter, sharper, much cooler, better looking and has no dress senses whatsoever.

Ivan : [Clearly enjoying Austin] So you think I've got better dress sense? Excellent!

Alice : Hey, how do we know that you're really here to help? How do we know that Darius really sent you?

Ivan : He gave me a message for you, Alice. [IVAN steps forward and kisses ALICE passionately for a good few seconds.]

Geneva : [While they're kissing, to Austin, with barely concealed contempt for the subject] She's my sister. My half-sister. Don't tell me you know her.

Alice : [After being let go by Ivan, and looking quite flushed] Phew! I - I think I need a crayonette after that. [Waves her hand in front of her face] He's also a better kisser than Darius.

Chastity : [To Alice, disapprovingly] Well you'd know.

Tamsin: [Munches on a crayonette, enjoying the show] Now this is more like it.

Austin : [To Ivan, smirking] Yes, you do have better dress sense than Darius, then again so does that [Points at some Phlegm dribbling down the wall. To Ivan] So what is it that you so desperately wanted to tell us?

Ivan : [Laughs out loud and claps his hands together once] Man, you're way better than Darius made out. Excellent! Outstanding! I don't want to tell you anything, and even if I had something to tell you, I wouldn't, because you're clearly an arrogant idiot. [To Chastity] You, on the other hand, Sister, are in grave danger. I'm here to protect you. [To Tamsin] Want a light? [Lights his cigarette lighter, causing all the customers to scream in terror]

Peggy : Aieee! We're all gonna die! [Stops and composes herself] Gooooo firemen! [Panics again] Aiiieee!

Chastity : [To Ivan] Why am I especially in grave danger?

Austin : [To Ivan, speaking over Chastity] Arrogant and very, very well dressed, but I'm no idiot, so you should find more appropriate slanderous terms, lest everyone thinks that you are.[Checks his nails. To Ivan] So appart from you trying to set her alight, why is Sister Chastity in grave danger?

Ivan : Oh, everyone's in grave danger, but it's you that I'm here to save. [Turns to Geneva] Although seeing this Hannigan girl here has surprised me. Have you travelled forward in time here?

Geneva : [Grumpily] Yes.

Ivan : I see. Well, that makes things a bit more complicated then. [Takes a drag of the crayonette and thinks hard before looking at it] You know, these things are disgusting. [Throws it on the ground and steps on it.]

Ivan : [Makes to say something, but pauses as Mad Albert runs between himself and Austin, screaming "wibble wibble" at the top of his voice, and stops, looks after Albert for a moment, before turning back and looking Austin up and down with a smile twitching at his lips] I don't think there's any doubt about who the real idiot is here. [Picks up one of the cards] Beware the Screamers. Remember those guys?

Sybil : Now really! [Steps into the room, clearly meaning business] This is too much. I must insist that -

Ivan : [Turns angrily to Sybil] Shut the fuck up! [Calmly, but coldly] We're having a conversation here. [The room goes quite silent, and all the customers stop what they are doing, turning to look at SYBIL, who stops, and takes a step back.]

Ivan : [Carries on nonchalantly to Austin] They're on their way here, and there is a lot of them. And they want to kill all of you.

Tamsin: [Puffing on the crayonette, says to Ivan] Hey, now, old Austin here might be arrogant and vain and quite full of himself and altogether insufferable, but he doesn't seem to be an idiot. [Nods at Austin supportively, in solidarity.]

Ivan : So, I guess you've just met him, then? [Shrugs] Maybe he's not an idiot, maybe I incorrectly took his pissy tone with someone who's here to help as idiocy, maybe he's a really good guy. Maybe, but I don't care.

Geneva : What do you know about Spruce Hannigan?

Ivan : [Big smile] That girl knows how to party! [Enthusiastically] And she's got a really good right hook. [Rubs his jaw] What a night!

Tamsin: [Tries not to get distracted by that last intriguingly juicy tidbit and says to Ivan] Well, speaking for myself, I don't know anything about any 'Screamers,' so I can't see what they could possibly have against me. People want to scream, let 'em scream, I say. But I couldn't help but notice you kinda seem like a prick, so why do you give a damn what happens to Churchy here? She doesn't seem like your type.

Geneva: [Almost proudly.] Course she knows how to party she's a Hannigan! [Mumbling.] Even if she does hate her family and was always Dad's favourite. [Loudly.] But never mind that! What the hell are Screamers?

Ivan : [To Tamsin] Just because I'm a prick doesn't mean I don't care about people.

Alice : Excuse me, but can we please mind our language? I'm sure there's no need to use such profanity. I mean, we are civilised, restrained people, are we not? [The window smashes from the outside, and someone grabs onto the bars, with their fingers bleeding from the glass. Everyone jumps with fright, even IVAN, although he clearly isn't as shocked as the others.]

Alice : Fuck!

Ivan : [Pointing at the figure hanging onto the window] That's a Screamer. [To Tamsin] He probably has nothing against you, but that won't stop him killing you. Unless you and Hannigan travelled here together, then he's going to go all out to kill you.

Gevena: Dagger time! [Drawing her dagger to the ready, even through the Screamer is not yet in the room.] We travelled here sort of together... well she was about

Tamsin: [To Ivan, shrugging, trying to keep her cool as she eyes the Screamer uneasily] No fun avoiding a fight, though. How do we kill it? The usual way? [Draws her sword and gets ready for battle.]

Geneva: Arrgh! I could take... [Does some quick, very complicated counting on her fingers.] Err...One! No wait, I've got the daggers in me boots! Make that one and another very small one!

Austin : [To Sybil] You had better lock and bolt the front door, they'll kill you too if they get the chance. [Gets his sling out ready to fire]

Sybil : This is unacceptable! Unacceptable! There will be no fighting here, this is a respectable institution. This - [There is a huge explosion from elsewhere in the building.]

Ivan : [Draws his sword] By a lot I mean hundreds. [To Chastity] Sister, why don't you take cover in the corner there? We'll try and hold them off.

Peggy : Gooooooo sanies!

Geneva: [To Ivan.] Why not clue us in a little - how do they fight? Apart from apparently shattering our eardrums with their screaming...

Peggy : [Face lights up with delight at Monty's words] Yaay! [Does her best chant] They are many and they are mean, but to die, we are keen! Yaaay!

Ivan : They fight in a suicidal rampage kind of way. [Looks around at the party] The rest of this mob have fought them before, why don't and [absently points at Tamsin] guard this sister, [nods at Monty] Coach and the rest of us can deal with them.

Peggy : They can stab our bodies, and stop our breath, but we will fight until our death! Raaaah!

Chastity : [Moving to a protective corner where she can see the door and room] They seem to fight just as normal combatants, as far as I know. I've not had much experience against them though. [Looks round the group] Anyone else?

Geneva: [Mimicking Monty.] Indeed... Well, as my father used to say, "Only fools and passengers drink at sea." and after he'd had a few he'd say "Geneva, ev'ry normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands.." and then something about slitting throats, I think. Nonetheless.. [Steps backwards to cover Chastity.] You have my dagger at the ready.

Alice : [Drawing her sword as a Screamer appears to be fired against the window with a huge catapult] They seem pretty real to me, Monty!

Tamsin : [Stands beside Geneva] Okay, Red, looks like it's time for some excitement.

Ivan : [Sticks his sword through the bars and stabs the Screamer] Monty, you help me and Alice with the window, Austin, you take the others and block the door.

Peggy : We are wishers and we are dreamers, but we'll all [pause] be killed by the screamers! Yaaay!

Geneva: [Quietly, to Tamsin, indicating Peggy.] She'll be screamin' when I stick my dagger through her belly!

Peggy : I am loud and make a pain in your head, but that'll soon stop, because we'll be dead! Yay!

Tamsin : [Muttering back] Not if I get to her first! [Another few SCREAMERs leap onto the window, most of whom are dispatched by MONTY and ALICE.]

Stephen : [Looking up the corridor] Uh oh! They're coming!

Chastity : [To Sybil] This extra secure room would happen to have an emergency escape hatch, would it?

Austin : [Attempts to secure the door. To Chastity deadpan] Now there's a great idea. Better start praying sister!

Sybil : [Proudly] Of course not, this room is totally secure. No one gets in, and no one gets out. [Another SCREAMER is fired against the bars, putting a huge dent in them.]

Ivan : [Stepping over to Chastity, Tamsin and Geneva] As a matter of fact, it does. [Produces a silver orb from beneath his jacket]

Geneva: And what's that you've got there then? [Quietly, to Chastity and Tamsin.] I don't trust this guy - he did say before he was out to destroy us!

Chastity : [To Austin, glancing at the orb] We may be able to consider those prayers answered. [To Geneva] As with dealing Darius, the situations leaves us little choice! [To Ivan] WHat type of orb is that?

Austin : [To Ivan] I haven't seen one quite like that before, will it save all of us or just CHastity?

Stephen : With a bit of luck, it's a glitterball and we can all dance till we drop!

Peggy : Dance! Dance! Dance, dance, dance! Dance, dance, dance. Dance, dance daaaance!

Alice : That wasn't very good.

Peggy : Hey, I'd like to see do these chants!

Ivan : [Shaking his head] No Hannigan, I never said that. [To Austin] It's supposed to save me and Chas, but I guess Hannigan and the other one don't belong here either. To tell the truth, I'm kind of curious about what's going to happen. [IVAN drops the orb in the middle of himself, GENEVA, TAMSIN and CHASTITY. Nothing happens.]

Ivan : Well, that's a bit of a pisser. [Attacks a Screamer who's hanging onto the window]

Tamsin: [To Ivan, chuckling nervously] Who wants the easy way out, anyway?

Alice : [Ducking instinctively as another Screamer is hurled against the window] Well, now that you mention it! [The same lightning as experienced before crashes around the room, momentarily blinding everyone. When it stops, GENEVA has disappeared, and CHASTITY has fallen to the ground. Meanwhile, the SCREAMERS outside the door are apparantly using another SCREAMER to break down the door, causing him to give a cry of pain everytime they hit the door with him.

Ivan : Hm. Well, that's a bit of a pisser. Hacks at the window once more]

Tamsin: [Checks Chastity for a pulse and glares at Ivan] Where the hell did you send Red?!

Ivan : I didn't send her anywhere! [The SCREAMERS break the door open and pour into the room, and everyone attacks them.]

Peggy : [Cheering the party on] Ivan! Ivan! He's our man! If he can't stop them, no one [thinks] er, will! [Mercifully gets stabbed in the back by Screamer] [More lightening crashes around the room.]

Alice : Yay! I bet that's to save us! [As it clears, the party can see that TAMSIN and IVAN are gone.]

Alice : Hey! [The party members disappear beneath a sea of angry SCREAMERS.] [Book IV, Act V, Scene IX. Outside the Special And Relaxing Tavern. TAMSIN and BAZ KHACHATURIAN are here, with BAZ having come out the door, and TAMSIN leaning back against some barrels, looking a bit dazed.]

Baz : Hey! What you want? Is not free to lean on barrels, but I make you special price, five silver pieces and you lean all night. You like dogs? I give you little dog free. [The silence of the night is ripped apart by the screech of wooden wheels on cobblestones as a large, expensive looking camper carriage flies around the corner at the end of the street, hub caps flying off, before screeching to a halt in front of the tavern. The carriage has clearly been through the wars, and has a number of arrows sticking out of it, has been damaged very badly, has a few small fires on it, and even the mangled body of a SCREAMER caught up underneath it. Inside the carriage are ALICE, AUSTIN, MONTY, STEPHEN and CHASTITY, all looking about ten years older than when TAMSIN and GENEVA first met them. All but CHASTITY look as though they have been fighting, and are covered in cuts and bruises.]

Baz : Ah! My friends! You come back. Want see funny pictures? I make you special price.

Tamsin: [To the party] What happened to you?! Where's Red?! [With a sigh] No, wait--let me guess. You have no idea who I am, right?

Alice : [In the driving seat] Right. I have no idea who you are, or where red is, or even what's red, for that matter.

Baz : [Whips up some canvas to reveal a stack of awful looking paint pots] You like red? I make you special price, or pink for lovely lady? Special offer on colours of rainbow tonight only!

Austin : [Steps out of the carriage, dusting down his suit, and looking at it in disgust] That carriage was a thing of beauty, and now it is ruined. [Looks down at himself] Like this suit, which is saved only be my presence in it.

Tamsin: [Trying to be patient and almost but not quite succeeding] Look, you know me. We've been traveling through time together and trying to save the world, though I'm still not clear on the plan for that, exactly. You're Austin, Chastity, Stephen, Alice, and Monty [gestures to each as she names them]. I'm Tamsin. Red's missing, it seems. So's that Ivan fellow. Any of this ring any bells?!

Stephen : None. Of course, as some of us are famous, it's no surprise that you know our names.

Baz : You like bells? I have bell collection, I make you special price!

Austin : [Gets out a small pocket mirror and checks his hair and handsomness. Speaking to everyone] I don't suppose that there is a good tailor in this town? [Looks around in a dissatisfied fashion. Sighs] I don't suppose so.

Tamsin: [Sarcastically] Good to know your priorities are still intact. So [gesturing to the battered carriage] what happened to you people, anyway?

Austin : [Casually looking at his carriage. To Tamsin] Oh, I let Alice drive. [Shrugs] Plenty more where that came from.

Tamsin: [Eyes Alice with wary amusement and gravely says to Austin] You know, I didn't want to say anything, but you're looking a little rough around the edges. Your nails, in particular. Looks like you've been gnawing on them or something. Seems to me like you're letting yourself go.

Austin : [Goes a little pail in shock and quickly looks at his nails, sighs in relief and laughs] You nearly had me there for a moment [Takes his nail protectors off] I wear them for fighting you see, they prevent any nasty scuffs. [Looks at Tamsin] Do yo use them?

Alice : Hey, the carriage is fine. [Tries to open the door, only for it to fall off]

Baz : [With a huge smile to Monty] Now that, my friend, is a special price. You like dog? I give you dog free. I come back. [Exit Baz]

Stephen : [To Tamsin] So, who are you? How is it that you claim to know us? We [emphasis] are very famous, you know.

Austin : [To Stephen] Are you still famous? I thought you were on that 'This was your life' show ten years ago! [Smirks]

Chastity : I know you, Tamsin. Did you just come from the Screamer attack in the Crazy house?

Tamsin: [To Austin, just a touch mockingly] Yes, of course! Who [emphasis} doesn't own nail protectors?! To Stephen, also a bit mockingly] And, yes, the reason I know all of you is because I've read all about you and your naughty sexual secrets in the papers. You're nauseatingly famous. [And finally, to Chastity, relieved] Yes! You remember?!

Chastity : Yes I do. [Gestures to herself] As you can see I seem to travel into the appropriate body for the time, whereas you, my dear, bodily transfer. [Looks round] I wonder if Geneva made it?

Stephen : [Dismissively to Austin] I'm sure I was, but they are constantly offering to pay me to pretend I know plebs. I'm sure if you were important enough to have it done they would offer me all sorts of huge cash incentives to attend [flashes a smile] and that's what it would take.

Alice : Screamers? Again? Where was that? We've just been attacked by some but, through some skillful driving, we escaped. [Points at the mangled body of a Screamer caught up in the axle]

Tamsin: [Bristles at Stephen's comments but ignores him and replies to Alice, acknowledging the mangled Screamer] Nice job. We were in a loony bin, and a fellow named Ivan told us a bunch of Screamers were headed for us. Well, for Churchy [gestures to Chastity] and Red. Then, the Screamers started coming, and Ivan tossed a sphere down that whisked Churchy, Red and me off. But not at the same time. Red went first.

Alice : Ivan, Red and Churchy? What were you? Some kind of quasi religious marxist group locked in an insane asylum because crazed addiction to nail protectors? Frankly, it sounds like that's where you all belong, [nods at Austin] Yeah, Aus, I'm talking to you too!

Tamsin: [Amused] Calm down, Princess. Just because you can't understand it doesn't mean it isn't true. Churchy here remembers, too, you know.

Geneva: [Enters, stompingly, preceeded with a lot of cursing and dagger talk.] Arrrgh. What's all this time travelling? What nonsense! I'm glad to be rid of them! Hmmph! [Stops short when she sees the party.] Oh. Well. Hello there. You all made it. [Glances at Chastity.] And you've gotten younger. But not yet the age that I first saw you. What is going on!?!

Austin : [Removing his nail protectors with the swift skill of a seasoned expert and checking that his nails are intact. Sneers at Stephen. To Geneva] It appears to be hate those-you-aspire-to-be, hour, so if you are feeling inferior to me then please feel free to take a verbal dig at me now, so that we can get this over with. [Shrewdly checks a pinky nail briefly] If however, unlike Tamsin and Stephen, you are not feeling inferior to me, then please feel free, as Alice does, to disscuss our impending doom at the hands of the screamers, or the transience of our sanity, and how we may save ourselves.

Tamsin: [To Austin, casually] Oh, yeah--that reminds me. I meant to suggest that you step up your present exercise regimen. The future you [puffs out cheeks ominously and holds arms out in a wide circle in front of her] will thank you for it [nods sagely].

Alice : [Bellows with laughter for a moment before going very serious] I'm not fat in the future, am I?

Geneva: [Cackles at Tamsin amusedly, but speaks to Austin.] The hate-those-you-aspire-to-be hour? Man, as she says, I've seen you all 15 years hence! That killed any aspirations I had to be like any of you! Lemme tell you, it's all downhill from here! as

Tamsin: [Pats Alice's arm sympathetically and replies soothingly] Looks aren't everything, dear. [To Geneva with a sly grin] Good to have you back, Red!

Geneva: [Winking at Tamsin, but to Alice.] And 'fat' is such a harsh word. [To Tamsin.] Seems time travel seems to send me to a different place to the rest of you. Now how do we get out of here and back to our real time?

Geneva: Okay... [Takes a second to collect her thoughts and then rushes in very quickly.] First of all Tamsin and I were fighting over something we now know is called "the heart of the beast" when a big bolt of lightning struck us and sent us into the middle of a volcano, where we met all of you, plus two fellows called Bjor and Alphi, who were the only ones apart from the bimbo here who could touch the object. Then we were in a loony bin, and hoo-boy, you guys were OLD! And there was a lot of crazy people there, and this guy called Ivan who was quite-frankly a pain in the ass. We looked at a bunch of stick figures then we got dropped through a silver orb and I ended up on a dark road. I walked towards the light. And here you all are. [Slightly panting from not taking a breath.] Crystal clear?

Chastity : [To Monty, nodding] All except being on the dark road. [To the whole group] This Ivan fellow claimed to be an associate of Darius, and certainly his behaviour and attitude would point towards his being so.

Geneva: Well, Sister, you weren't with me on the dark road, so that would make sense! [Ponders.] So this Darius is bad news, yes?

Austin : [To Geneva] Good and bad, but mostly bad. But a much better liar than you. Much better.

Geneva: [Indignantly to Austin.] Liar?!? This is more than even I could make up!! And besides...remember.. I've seen you 15 years hence! Arrrggh! [To Monty.] So is there a common thread with these guys? Where did you first meet Darius?

Austin : [Sighs, checks his nails] Not even the dirt under you feet believes you, and anyway, I'm too vain to ever become fat. [Tuts and rolls his eyes at Geneva]

Alice : [Still reeling from the unkind fat remark] What bimbo? [Looks at Tamsin] Her? [Sniffs haughtily] Well, I'm sure I don't know, but it seems like just about anyone counts as one now. For the record, the last time we saw Darius he had helped bring Harvey back from a hell dimension, and the time before that he saved my life, so he is a good guy.

Stephen : Apart from the time he sent you all to hell.

Alice : Well, I suppose.

Stephen : And when he tricked Dobbin into killing himself.

Alice : Ye-es.

Stephen : And not to mention when he double crossed you in Hysteria.

Alice : [Folds her arms, annoyed] I don't know when you became such an expert, Stephen, you weren't even there.

Geneva: [Impatient.] But are they related?

Alice : Who? Stephen and Darius? [Laughs so hard that some milk comes down her nose] Unlikely! As for Ivan and Darius? Well, possibly, Darius sometimes works with his Soulmates, which are people from different times who have the same soul, but they always look very similar.

Geneva: [Confused.] Well, not in the latter realities..but [Pointing to Alice.] She had a dead one under her carriage..once! Yes!

Chastity : The times that we are appearing seem to be linked by appearances of similar factors. Screamers, stick man cryptographs and the needs to travel south. We seem to be shown varies clues to help defeat this evil, but time may be running out. The screamer attack that [gestures towards Geneva and Tamsin] the two girls and I witnessed bore ill tidings for the future party we were with. If the ferocity of events continues we are in real trouble, [dramatically] and the rest of the world with us. [The scene is lit up with a timely flash of lightning, and every one goes very, very quiet for a moment.]

Alice : [Perkily] And if it doesn't?

Chastity : We all live happily for another fifteen years and then get killed in an mental house by a rampaging horde of screamers. [pauses] Probably.

Geneva: [To Alice.] Same souls, different bodies, different time!?! [Aside.] But apparently Ivan had dress sense! What does that tell us.. and Sister..{to Chastity. Why did you age, and the others did not?

Alice : There are two types of time travel, one where your consciousness jumps to a future version of yourself, and another where you actually travel. It sounds like both are going on here, but why? Honestly, one would think that whoever's playing with us would be a bit more professional.

Tamsin: [To Alice] Well, it does serve a purpose, after all. If Churchy here didn't remember, then none of you would ever know it was happening, right? You didn't seem inclined to take me and Red at our word. Though I guess I can't blame you, seeing as you don't technically know us. And speaking of stick figures, didn't that Baz fellow mention he has some funny pictures for sale? Anyone wanna get a look and see if it's more of this [strikes a stick figure pose]?

Alice : [Sniggers] I never saw a stick figure look like that! [Enter BAZ, who has clearly simply been waiting on the other side of the door, listening.]

Baz : Ah, my friends! Want see funny pictures now? I make you special price, but dog gone, sold to special customer.

Tamsin: [To Baz] How much for the funny pictures?

Baz : For you, lovely lady, three gold pieces.

Alice : How much for all of us?

Baz : Quarter past blue! [Roars with laughter so hard that he has to steady himself against the barrels] Is okay, I make joke with you. Three gold pieces for all of you. [Sees the puzzled looks on the faces of the party members] Hey, is gypsy humour, okay?

Chastity : [deadpan] Clearly. [To Stephen] Can you pay the man? I don't want to go through the whole argument with Austin again. [To Baz, waving a finger at him] If there are any libelous fake pictures of nun's in this selection, you'll be sued so haevely that all you'll have left is your gypsy sense of humour!

Tamsin: [Suddenly bursting into laughter] OOOH! I get it. Just took me a second. [Wipes tears of laughter from her eyes, giggling and muttering 'quarter past blue' as she pokes through her knapsack, looking for gold, then suddenly says] Say, Baz, how about we make a trade? I've got this handbound book of original poetry I'd be willing to give you for the pictures. Swapping art for art, you know? [Shows Baz a handbound book of poetry, actually dirty limericks, and flips to a page so he can read one for himself.]

Baz : Is okay, Sister, naughty postcard already sold. [Takes a glance at the book] Baz is not so good with letters.

Alice : Tut! I'll read it for you. [Starts reading] "There once was a young man named Buck", [reads down a bit more to herself] oh! Let's try another one. "There was a young lady called Dolores", tut! That won't do either. One more. "There came a young boy from Mucking Pit Trick" [Looks at Tamsin with disappointment] Now really! These aren't even trying to be clever.

Baz : Low brow pornographic poetry? Is deal! [Snatches the book from Alice]

Tamsin: [Snaps at Alice defensively] Well, you obviously aren't my audience, Princess. Some people think quite highly of my gifts. Like Baz here. [To Baz] So, let's have the pictures, then.

Baz : Pictures upstairs, carved in wall. Follow me. [BAZ enters the inn, and brings the party through a large, empty bar with stairs at the opposite end. Just as the party reach the bopttom of the stairs, they spot IVAN, sitting on his own at a small table, looking at a postcard, and with a small dog sitting on the table.]

Ivan : [Looks up] Ah, looks like we all made it, then. [Holds up the mangy dog] You like dog? I make you special price!

Chastity : [Glancing at Baz giggling at glee at the pages full of words he can't read] Hardly a sparkling endorsement.

Chastity : [To the rest of the party, pointing to Ivan] That's the Ivan we were talking about. [To Ivan, gesturing towards the card] Sending a holiday postcard back to Darius?

Tamsin: [To the party, triumphantly] Aha! Ivan. Just like we told you. [To Ivan, gesturing to Alice] Lay another one on her. That convinced her last time.

Ivan : [Makes to say something to Chastity, but thinks better of it, and puts the postcard into his pocket with a smile] No, remember, I'm here to [emphasis] help you Chastity. [Gets up and looks at Tamsin and gives a resigned sigh] If I have to. [Gives Alice a passionate kiss that lasts a good thirty seconds]

Alice : [Pulling back with an audible pop] What the hell are you doing? [Slaps him across the face, before rubbing her teeth] Ew! I think I've got some crayon in my teeth!

Ivan : Hey, [points at Tamsin] she told me to do it. [Rubs his face] Not a bad punch. You're no Hannigan, but still, not bad at all. [To Tamsin] You know, I think I prefered the older version of her.

Austin : [To Ivan, suspiciously] Why do you want to help Chastity, what's i it for you?

Tamsin: [To Ivan] Not me. The younger her is slightly less an uptight prude [shrugs]. So, Ivan. Mind telling us what the hell's going on?

Chastity : [To Tamsin] The younger Alice is, the less uptight and prudish she is! Or at least thats one way of putting it.

Alice : Look! This is outrageous! You have absolutely no right to assault me like that! You can't possibly have an acceptable reason for doing that.

Ivan : Darius told me to give it you as a message, that it would confirm he sent me.

Alice : [Totally deflated] Oh.

Ivan : [To Tamsin] Actually, I think she's more prudish now. Last time, she was an animal, and there was no whining about crayon in her teeth either. [To Baz] Get lost, we need to talk in private.

Baz : Yes, yes, my friend, I will get lost for you for special price! Just three - [BAZ is interrupted by IVAN giving a shout and angrily throwing a stool through a huge mirror behind the bar, causing most of the party to duck as he throws it.]

Baz : I leave you in private. [Backs off, still smiling, but clearly terrified.] [Exit BAZ.]

Ivan : [Nice and calm again] To tell the truth, folks, I'm as confused as you. [Lights a cheeseratte, before looking up at the faces of the party] Well, maybe not quite that confused, but pretty confused all the same. All I know is that you, Sister, need to be in Cachexia, but despite some pretty powerful magic being used to get you there, you still haven't arrived, it's as though something is trying to prevent you from getting there. As for all this time travel thing [shrugs] I've no idea what's going on, nor why Hannigan and [indicates Tamsin with the cheeseratte] Stretch are following you around. [To Geneva and Tamsin] What's your connection with this mob?

Chastity : [Looking quizzically to Tamsin] Stretch?

Tamsin: [Shrugs at Chastity and replies] His attempt at a nickname, I guess. [To Ivan] You really should leave that sort of thing to the experts, er, Wax-Breath. Anyway, other than proximity, I have no connection to these people, far as I know. Me and Red just stumbled on them when we were both--uh, discussing which of us owned this Heart of the Beast thingy. They were in the lock-up, and we sprung 'em. Now we keep getting zapped to wherever they are. No idea why. Theories? Other than 'wrong place, right time'?

Ivan : [With a big smile] Yeah, Stretch, let's leave it to the experts. [Raises his eyebrows] Heart of the beast?

Tamsin: [Cagily] That's a question, not a theory, Waxy. I take it you have no theories, then?

Ivan : I've got plenty of theories, Stretch, but I doubt now's the time to share them with you. Now, being a woman, I know you're probably very emotional at the moment, but maybe you can try and calm down and tell me what the heart of the beast is?

Geneva : [Draws her dagger and mutters to herself] I'm gonna stab him through the belly.

Chastity : [To Geneva] Steady, dear. [To Ivan] The heart of the beast is a jewel encrusted object of undetermined use. We briefly had it when transported to some past juncture, although most the party don't seem to have any knowledge of it. Only a select few people were able to touch the object, Alice and two seemingly innocent local lads.

Ivan : A jewel? [Shakes his head] Doesn't mean anything to me. [Draws his sword] Anyone want to take guess at what the pictures upstairs are?

Tamsin: [Pointedly drawing her sword as well] No, but I paid dearly to get a look at them. So let's get on with it.

Ivan : [Looks down at Tamsin's sword with a half smile-half smirk, before stepping up very, very close to her so that they are almost nose to nose] I like you, Tamsin. I think I'd like to fight you some time. [Steps back] But not tonight. [Everyone heads upstairs, and IVAN pushes in the first door they come too. As the light pours into the room, a woman screams in fright, and IVAN shuts the door slowly.]

Ivan : [Laughing] That never gets old! [Opens the next door, which is clearly the room the party were looking for. It contains the same picture that the "special" customers were drawing in the hospital, that is "Beware the Screamers"] Surprise?

Tamsin: [To Ivan, bored] Not really. Seems to be a pattern developing here. You show up and act like a prick, and then we all look at stick figures together. [To Chastity] What do you think it all means?

Austin : [To Tamsin, nervously peeking out of the window] I thought we had already established the fact that these clues mean that we are about to be attacked by screamers? [Has a search around the room, brandishing his dagger and prodding anything odd with it]

Geneva: [Questionly.] Was Darius ever with you when you were attcked by screamers?

Ivan : [With a smile to Tamsin] Speaking of pri-

Stephen : [Excitedly interrupting, almost jumping on Geneva] No! In fact, no one has ever seen a Screamer and Darius together! Maybe [dramatically] he is a Screamer! [A few embarassed seconds of silence pass by.]

Ivan : [Sighs and rolls his eyes, before checking the windows] Correct, Austin, we have established that we're about to be attacked by them. [Peering out] I'm not sure how many of them there are, but [turns dramatically to the party] there'll either be more, the same amount, or less than the number who attacked us in the future.

Alice : How many of them were there?

Ivan : I don't know.

Geneva: [Sarcastically, witheringly.] Yes. Stephen that's DEFINITELY where I was headed... [To Ivan.] Could you possibly be any LESS help? I was just wondering do you think it's strange that we seem to encounter them whenever you appear?

Ivan : Correlation is not causation, Hannigan. [Nods to Alice] You explain it, Doc.

Alice : The fact that two events happen at the same time doesn't mean that they depend on each other. Also, you're dealing with a statistically insignificant sample size, Geneva. We fought these brutes for over a year and never saw any sign of Ivan here, you've only seen them once, with the possibility of seeing them a second time.

Ivan : [Ruffles Alice's hair playfully, to her obvious annoyance] Isn't she great? It's a pity she doesn't know anything else. For what it's worth, Hannigan, I could be a lot less help. [Takes out the orb he had previously] I'm not sure how much juice this thing has left, what with all those unexpected hitch hikers the last time.

Tamsin: [To Ivan] How much help were you last time, bringing us here? And just where do you think that, er, orb juice, will take us this time? Or maybe a better question is: when?

Geneva: [To Ivan.] Stop calling me Hannigan! I don't use that name very much any more! And it's Geneva... [In a small voice.] or Red! And why did the orb drop me in the middle of the road instead of with the rest of the group?

Ivan : Sure thing, Hannigan. When I [emphasis for Tamsin's sake] helped you the last time, I only put the orb near the four of us because it isn't powerful enough to help everyone. [Places it on the ground again] With a bit of luck, it will still have enough to get the four of us out of here again. [Points at himself] Don't blame me if it isn't perfect, I didn't design it.

Alice : [Looking over at the orb] Hey! What's that?

Geneva: Are you referring to millions of years back in time, or the time from whence [Suppresses a smille.] Stretch and I came.

Ivan : I hope not, [with a wink at Geneva] Hannigan, because if we do, we'll almost certainly be stuck there. It'll be a miracle if even one- [IVAN is interrupted by a crackle of lightning from the orb, which seems to strike TAMSIN, causing her to disappear.]

Ivan : [Continues on calmly] Two of us escape. [Looks around the party] They're on the way.

Alice : Only two? What about the rest of us?

Geneva: Well you don't die here, I've seen you in the future! Old-like, y'know.

Chastity : [To Monty] Nothing really. We were battling the Screamers and the Bringer at the ambush site, trying to save Peter, there was a large crackle of lightening and we were suddenly in the past. [Looks round the group] Actually, I was meaning to ask. Why am I the only one not covered in cuts and bruises?

Alice : [To Geneva] And if we met you in the future, why didn't our future selves remember this meeting? There's something very wrong here. [The party can spot glimpses of some figures out the window, clearly converging on the party's position. Suddenly, there is a whole lot of barking coming from downstairs.]

Ivan : Deefor!

Alice : Deefor? What's that?

Ivan : Deefor Dog, that gypsy gave him to me for free when I paid two gold pieces to see the picture. [Holds up Andy's camera from earlier] I also got this neat camera for just another three gp!

Chastity : [To Ivan, shaking her head] I can't believe you named your new companion "Deefor" dog. [Glancing out the window for any more figures] Certainly Mr. Giles.

Ivan : [With a big smile] It was either that or Tamsin. [Pushes open the door] [DEEFOR is in the middle of the floor downstairs, barking madly, while at least twenty SCREAMERS are standing on chairs, tables, unfeasibly high cupboards etc., keeping as far away from him as possible.]

Ivan : [Proudly to the party] Vicious little brute, isn't he?

Austin : I thought that the screamers were suicidal fanatics! Why are they scared of a dog? [Takes a shot at a screamer standing on a chair] [AUSTIN hits one, who gives a cry of pain and falls to the ground, only to be swallowed whole by DEEFOR. The others give a roar and leap off their hiding places.]

Alice : [Readies her sword] Oh, crap. How many people will be able escape with the orb?

Ivan : Up to three more.

Chastity : [Looking at Deefor licking his lips] My what a guttsy little fellow.

Austin : [Shoots another Screamer] I hope Deefor's hungry!

Austin : [Quickly looks around the ceiling and windows to see if there is an escape root onto the roof] We don't stand a chance unless Deefor can swallow them all, which is doubtful. Is there anyway onto the roof?

Alice : Maybe through the window? [Goes to the window and immediately comes back with an arrow in her hat] Maybe not! [In a flash of light, TAMSIN disappears.]

Stephen : Gibber! We're all gonna die!

Ivan : [Slaps him across the face] Calm yourself! Of course we won't all die, myself and Chas will surely escape!

Austin : [To Ivan] Go on then, escape![Takes a shot at a screamer from the window. Turns back into the room for cover] Anyone got a lightening conductor?

Chastity : [To Ivan] You can't say that to my colleague! Did you miss tact classes at school? I must say, though, it is all a bit embarrassing.

Austin : [Worriedly] We should all stick together, if we split up we are much more vunerable. [Searches for a hidden escape root or door]

Alice : [Nodding vigorously in agreement] That's true! That's absolutely true!

Ivan : Yes, yes. Well, except for those of us who escape. [A crackle of lightning fills the room with bright light for a moment, before IVAN, CHASTITY and the orb disappear.]

Alice : At least Deefor stayed to help us! [DEEFOR pounds up the stairs bites ALICE on the ankle.]

Alice : Ow! [Book IV, Act V, Scene X. The Battlefield. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, MONTY and STEPHEN are here, standing at the edge of a high cliff, looking down at the wreckage of their carriage, that PETER was in the last time they saw it. The surrounding area is strewn with the bodies of SCREAMERS, many of which were killed by the party earlier. The fires are still lighting, indicating that not too much time has passed since they were here.]

Alice : Woah! [Barely stops herself from falling off the edge of the cliff] Hm. [Looks around at the bodies and then down the cliff] I wonder if Peter escaped? [Looks a bit doubtful] Everyone else remembers being in a volcano with two really calm guys and two really angry girls, right?

Chastity : [Looking around blinking] Yes, and more. Have you just been whipped away from the volcano?

Alice : Yes, we've been here for a few minutes, but you were back to your old state. [Points down over the edge of the cliff] There's the carriage.

Chastity : [Looks around the scene] It's just that I've been to the two future junctures since the volcano, both with Tamsin and Geneva. In both cases the party was just about to be overwhelmed by screamers when we were saved by a magic orb by a fellow called Ivan, who claimed to be an associate of Darius's. Both times myself, the two girls and Ivan seemed to be the only ones to escape, so I'd expect to see them quite soon. [Reaches into her bag, pulls out a small tub of petroleum jelly and offers it to Alice.] You may want to moisten you lips for when Ivan appears, dear.

Alice : [Looks at the jar incredulously] My - my lips? [Enter PETER DEADPAN, from off to one side. He is covered in cuts and bruises, and his clothing is torn, but he looks surprisingly helpful.]

Peter : Ah. I was hoping you'd turn up after they were all killed.

Tamsin: [Walks up to the assembled party and says wearily] All right. You don't know you know me, but you do. We've been traveling through time together. Sort of. Churchy, you tell 'em this time. [Sighs and looks around for Geneva and Ivan]

Austin : [Too Peter, with a big smile] Hey! You're alive, excellent. [Goes over and inspects won of the screamer corpses using his dagger. Too Peter] Did you kill the Bringer too? [Looks around]

Alice : [To Tamsin] What? Who on [huge emphasis] earth are you? [AUSTIN lifts one of the masks of the SCREAMERS to reveal that they at least appear to be humans.]

Peter : [Curls up his lip in disgust at all this emotionalism] My loyal party members helped me out. [Turns and looks Tamsin up and down with barely concealed contempt before turning to Austin] No. He escaped.

Austin : [To Peter] Yes, well we didn't delibaratley time travel out of here into a prehistoric erupting volcano, [Surveys the scene] Anyway it doesn't look like you needed much help, you're just so amazing [Raises his hands in amazement and goes to see if he can find one of the Bringers 'jars']

Tamsin: [Snaps at Peter] What's your problem?! [To Alice, far more patiently] Tamsin. We're fr-, uh, well more like associates. Me and Red sprung you out of the lock-up in that volcano. Thought Churchy said you remembered that? [Watches Austin's reaction to Pete uneasily]

Austin :[Just returning. To Monty, smirking] Surely you mean a more secure premises, the word premises comes from the past participle praemissa, which is both a feminine singular and a neuter plural form of the Latin verb praemittere, whereas a premise is a proposition upon which an argument is based or from which a conclusion is drawn. [Flips another mask off another screamer to see if it too is human]

Tamsin: [To Austin, rolling her eyes] Thanks for the entirely pointless grammar lesson. Anyone care to clue me in here? [Points at the dead screamers] These things are actually human?! What's the deal?

Alice : This is the first time we've seen them unmasked, no one really knows anything about them. Just that they wear really scary masks. [AUSTIN pulls off another mask to reveal that the next SCREAMER is also human. A short distance away are the jars, all of which are smashed and now empty.]

Peter : [Looks distastefully at Tamsin, before addressing Chastity and Austin] I found a four leafed clover and beat them to death with it.

Geneva: [Stomping up, dagger drawn, and to the cliff edge, looking down.] Quite a mess, eh? [Gazes at the Screamers corpses.] Seems I gots here too late. Was it a grand battle? [Looks around at the party, and points to herself.] Geneva. You know me, even if you don't remember it. Where's Ivan?

Tamsin: [To Geneva, smiling] Glad you made it back in one piece, Red! You can save your breath--they remember us this time. Mostly. Haven't seen Ivan around [shrugs and unsuccessfully tries not to appear too interested in Ivan's whereabouts].

Geneva: [Smiling evilly.] Okay.. let's hope he's stuck in a volcano or some such place. Question is now what? [Glares at Peter.] Who the hell are you?

Peter : [Curls his lip up in a mix of disgust and smugness at Geneva, before turning to the party] Wonderful. You've brought help. [A series of irritating, high pitched bells can be heard off to the distance.]

Alice : [Looking puzzled] Is - is that an ice cream carriage?

Geneva: [Indignantly.] Help? HELP? [Pauses to listen to the ringing.] Great now all we need is for some demented court jester to turn up! [Looks at Peter about to say more, but for some reason doesn't. [As the carriage, a "Mr. Whipper" ice cream carriage pulls up to the party, ALICE appears to develop a nervous tic, and immediately starts knocking on the side of it. The side lifts up to reveal IVAN there, wearing a bloodstained white coat and hat.]

Alice : Can I have some cornettos please, a classic, a mint, a strawberry and a whipper? And a magnum and a magnum white? Mmm, let's see, a solero, a chupster, a feast [rubs her bottom lip as she looks over the menu] a calipo, two mini milks, a twister and a zoostick. Oh, and four gallons of chocolate chip ice cream.

Ivan : You want a cherry with that?

Alice : No, better not, I have to watch my figure, you know.

Austin : [To Peter] A four leaf clover! [Sighs in glee] How wonderful! [Winks at Peter and does the old Clint click thing] Click-click!

Peter : [Rolls his eyes at this and glares at Ivan] Excellent. A good way to travel incognito.

Geneva: [Looking at Ivan.] Great! I was right. A demented jester. What's with the bloodstains, Ivan? [To the party.] Right. So apparently we're in the right time, once again. What do we do now? [Prods the nearest corpse with her foot distastefully.] Hopefully nothing involving these fellows!

Austin : [Goes over and looks at the menu. To Ivan] Can I have a strawberry frosty boy please [Points at the strawberry frosty boy on the menu] I haven't had one for years! [Chuckles. To Alice, rhetorically] What was the catchphrase again, 'often licked, never beaten' [Cackles with laughter]

Geneva: [To self.] I don't believe it, after everything we've been through, they're after icecreams? [To Ivan, wickedly.] Don't you owe Alice a big smooch?

Austin : [To Ivan, nodding in aggreement with Geneva] Yes, and she's all lip balmed up ready for the big kiss, without crayon, if possible. [Frowns as he spots a little piece of screamer on his shoe, quickly wipes it off with a paper towel].

Alice : Hey! What are you talking about? [Points her whippy cornetto angrily at Monty, dripping it very close to him] You better back off, Mister Stiff, or you'll find yourself at the wrong end of a cornetto

Ivan : Sure you can, young sir. [Hands the ice cream to Austin, before addressing Geneva] The previous owner of the van wasn't to keen on giving it up, I had to persuade him. [Holds out a bunch of ice lollies] Mr. Freeze, anyone? Better make it quick, myself and Alice have an appointment.

Tamsin: [To Ivan, craning her neck to check out the ice cream selection] Got anything chocolate?

Austin : [To Monty] You seem to be oblivious of the fact that this is no ordinary icecream. Since Ivan has rendered the previous owner of this mobile icecream shop dead, then the icecreams can be obatined free of charge! [Scows at Montys stiff attitude] That's free icecream, incase you didn't understand.

Ivan : That's a pretty bad cough you've got there, Monty. Anyway, I don't want to whisk her off anywhere, I just want to kiss her passionately. [Notices Alice's big mint cornetto moustache] Although not right away. [Slaps a bunch of chocolate magnums on the counter in front of Tamsin] For you. I make you special price.

Alice : [After eating about five ice creams] Is there anything that can't be cured by eating loads of ice cream? [Takes a mouthful of another one, and gives a sudden groan] Oh. Maybe there's one thing.

Tamsin: [Casually, to Ivan, after paying for her ice cream with a handful of saucy original poems] You know, you could probably just TELL Alice the message this time. She's pretty much up to speed at this point, seems to me.

Peter : [Turns around and looks at all the bodies strewn about] Indeed. A small blow. [Turns and looks at Ivan with disgust] Where's my ice cream?

Ivan : [Handing out a ludicrously large banana split, covered in all sorts of confectionaries, little umbrellas and small fireworks] Here y'go Petey, I know it's your favourite. [To Tamsin, speaking up to be heard over the sound of Alice vomiting around the side of the carriage] You know, I think you're right, this time I'll just say it to her. What I want to know is what the hell you lot were doing back in the past?

Peter : [Distastefully takes the ice cream, and speaks with a bored monotone] It looks divine. [Tears into the ice cream, clearly greatly enjoying it]

Tamsin: [To Ivan, ignoring Peter completely] Yeah, don't we all? How'd you know to come get Churchy, anyway? Seems like there's plenty you haven't told us yet, though I guess we have been a little sidetracked, with all of the Screamers and whatnot. Er, by the way, thanks for saving our necks.

Alice : [Coming back from her vomit spot, wiping her face and blouse, not noticing the puke in her hair] Right, Ivan, is it? Now, I understand that you want to [gives a very, very loud burp, the smell of which makes the others cringe] excuse me! I understand you want to kiss me?

Ivan : [Looks at his melted ice cream] You know what, you're fine. What I need to tell you is that Darius sent me to help you. It looks like the south really needs Chastity in Cachexia, and have been casting all sorts of crazy spells to get you there, but something else is pulling you somewhere else. [Shrugs] I guess that's what's causing all this time travel. Any idea who or what that might be?

Austin : [Nibbiling at his cone] Fate? Last from Conor #38

Tamsin: [To Alice, tactfully trying to draw attention to the vomit in her hair] Er, your hair could use a good brushing there, Princess. It got mussed in the battle, seems like. [To Ivan, and the rest of the party] All I know is everything went to hell after Red and me found the Heart of the Beast. But with a name like that, what do you expect, really? A "Heart of the Beast" isn't exactly going to take you out for drinks and give you a foot massage, now is it?

Austin : [To Monty] Each, all and either of them, that's the gist of the thing. [Ponders the icecream carriage momentarily] I think we should all try to get to Chachexia in the icecream carriage. Who would expect an elderly nun to be travelling in an icecream carriage? [Licks his icecream and finishes it, but throws away most of the cone. Gets his pocket mirror out and checks himself for icecream moustaches etc]

Alice : Are you sure that what you had was the heart of the beast? I think it was in the shape of it, but not necessarily the heart itself, whatever that was.

Stephen : [To Ivan] What's so important about getting Chastity to this place anyway? Seems to me she's as [makes a circular motion with his index finger to his head].

Ivan : [Shrugs] Haven't a clue. Maybe your watcher will know all about it. [Sniggers at this]

Alice : [Checking herself out in one of the wing mirrors and cleaning off her hair] I wonder what would happen if I'd held onto the thing you two brought back, would we have brought it here with us? What was it Bjorseth said about the item trying to find people?

Stephen : Our watcher seem to hum and haw his way through every situation without really knowing what's going on. Ahem.

Alice : [Now clean again] Ahem. I think you'll find, Stephen, that drawing attention to his [pause as she chooses her words] more obvious faults is unfair and unhelpful. Ahem.

Ivan : Sounds like he fits in well with the rest of the watchers then. Ahem.

Stephen : Well, they certainly do seem to live up to their job title, passively watching rather than helping out or giving us advice, or even hints or, or, or, telling us what's hot or not on the catwalks of Pares! [Stamps his foot in outrage]

Tamsin: [Amused] No false advertising, though. You gotta respect the honesty, if nothing else. Unless there' s more to it than we realize. [To Monty, slyly] So, you like to Watch?

Monty : [Takes off his glasses and cleans them] That, Miss Laveau, depends on what is there to be watched. My duty is to the Hierophantic Knights, to help ensure that information is efficiently deseminated, however I fear that other watchers are faced with a similar lack of co-operation and respect from their watchees, which accounts for the general lack of information amongst the Knights in general.

Ivan : But you knew that I'm a Knight, didn't you?

Monty : Not officially. However, your flagrant lack of respect for common law and decency, not to mention your overbearing and arrogant demeanour, suggested to me that you most probably are one.

Ivan : Score for the watchers! So anyway, the heart of the beast? Explain. Did you have it? See it? Lose it? (oops--probably

Tamsin: [Shrugs] I'm kinda new to this party, so you'll have to ask the old-timers. Good questions, though. [Looks to the others quizzically]

Chastity : I'm not sure [looks around at the others] did the rest of you think that item was the heart of the beast? It certainly looked different from the item I saw in my dream that night, although it was the same shape.

Geneva: Different? How so? And what would be the point of having a faux heart of the beast?

Chastity : I'm sure I don't know dear. After all, it was you who brought it with you. What I saw in my dream wasn't as elaborate as the one you had, and certainly not as colourful. Perhaps you two could tell us where you got it from?

Alice : And come to think of it, why were you two fighting? How come you're so pally now?

Tamsin: [To Chastity] It was in a place called the Temple of the Gallants. Ring any bells? [To Alice] We had been traveling separately, and we both happened upon the Heart of the Beast--or whatever it was--at the same time. Speaking for myself, I had a bit of rough day prior to that, so I guess I was spoiling for a fight and got a little carried away. We're "pally" now because we've been through a lot together, I guess [shrugs and gives Geneva a hearty slap on the back].

Geneva: [Goes flying forward under the impact of the slap. To Tamsin.] Watch it. Stretch! [Gives her a "friendly" elbow in the ribs.]At least she's been a constant. Anyways, we both touched on the damned Heart of the Beast at the same time, fought for it.. found ourselves in the volcano. [Shrugs.] And the rest is history. So to speak.

Tamsin: [To Monty] To be honest, organized religion isn't really my thing. I didn't pay that much attention to the temple itself. But I can tell you that it was near a town called Dystopia. [To Geneva] Red, you remember anything more than that?

Geneva: [Thinking.] Nope. Dystopia. Blue lightning. Temple of the Galliants. [Punches Tamsin goodnaturedly.] Fighting with you yer bugger. That's about it. We never got that damned heart either..

Alice : Dystopia? That's where Clint was killed. And Pestilence, and Chac, remember, the Placebium mine? [To Chastity] Who are the Gallants?

Chastity : I've never heard of them, and don't believe they are related to the true church of Phili. We won't know who they are until we find out what that item is. [Snaps] But why are we wasting time here? We should be going to Cachexia.

Geneva: [Genuinely surprised.] Monty! That's a really good idea! Now I won't have to stick a dagger through your belly! [Smiles as if she's genuinely complimented him.]

Tamsin: [To Geneva, approvingly] Nice show of restraint, Red!

Alice : [Rolls her eyes] I think you'd better get your belly sticking through dagger ready, Geneva, because it's not a good idea at all. Unless you can tell me exactly how much longer after we were there that the [distastefully] divine wrath destroyed it.

Chastity : [Now in the ice cream carriage, blowing the horn] Oh, come on! Stop wasting time. [Revs up the horses]

Geneva: [Rolls her eyes back at Alice.] Don't you worry, I've sure got my dagger always at the ready! [Walks to the van and eyes Ivan distrustfully before climbing in.] I hope the former owner isn't still in here.

Chastity : [Reversing and turning at about 60mph, with a screech of tyres and horses] We don't have time to be careful. We're in too much of a hurry. [The carriage races off, with STEPHEN barely managing to get aboard as it does.]

Alice : [To Geneva and Tamsin, as everyone is bounced up and down from the carriage's speed] So, are you lot coming to Cachexia?

Geneva: [Not un-goodnaturedly.] Bah. You lot look like you could do with a working dagger around here. Yes, I'd be best too. [Adds hastily.] Only to help you out, of course!

Alice : Of course.

Tamsin : And there is the small matter of that item too, of course. I'm sure we're both kind of curious about what happened there, and, well, we did find it first.

Alice : Yes. Of course. [Glances out the window] Hey! How fast are we going? [Although the carriage is clearly going about as fast as a fully load ice cream carriage can go, looking outside suggests that is going much, much fast than that, at absolutely impossible speeds, far exceeding even the crazed speeds of the Hamstrain (30 mph).]

Ivan : [Glances out his window, before turning to Chastity with a surprised look] We are going kind of quick, Sis.

Chastity : I said, we're in a rush!

Austin : [To Geneva] You're not the only one around here who knows how to use a dagger. [Casually glances out of the window to check the speed they are going at. To Chastity] If you ever need a job I have a vacancy on my chauffeurs rota Chassers old girl.

Alice : First you need a chauffeur, Aus. And you need a carriage.

Chastity : [Turns around and glares at Monty, looking very, very angry] Why don't you just shut up?

Chastity : [Dropping down a gear, causing the carriage to lurch violently forward and Alice to squash an ice cream in her face] If you'd stop bothering me with your prattle, Mr. Giles, I wouldn't need to turn around. [The now familiar blue lightning crashes around the carriage, making CHASTITY almost lose control. The carriage is now travelling at an apparantly impossible speed.]

Stephen : At least if we get pulled away, we won't die in a horrible, fiery crash!

Tamsin: [To Stephen, sarcastically] Yeah, maybe we'll get lucky and die facing Screamers in the distant future instead. Big improvement! [The lightning crackles again, and, in a burst of smoke, all the party disappear, leaving just PETER and IVAN in the out of control carriage.]

Peter : [Sourly] Oh great. I was hoping they would do that again. [Folds his arms]

Ivan : Fancy a banana split?

Peter : [Sulkily] No. [Folds his arms]

Ivan : [Holds up another ludicrously over sized banana split, again decorated with umbrellas, sparkler and all kinds of little sweets] Guess I'd better throw this baby out then.

Peter : I'll throw it out. [Snatches it off Ivan and starts gulping it down] [Book IV, Act V, Scene XI. A dank cavern. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, GENEVA, MONTY, STEPHEN and TAMSIN have just appeared. Sitting here are APHI and BJORSETH, dressed as they were the last time the party saw them. The party appear with a ferocious crackle of lightning, but APHI and BJORSETH don't appear to be even remotely surprised at this. APHI is sitting down eating an apple, while BJORSETH is polishing his sword.]

Bjorseth : [Clearly only pretending, turning to Alice] Oh. I see it's you again. Humph! [Turns his back on the party, and is trying to suppress a smil, before turning back and trying to keep a serious face] Oh. And you've a little thing just [points at his cheek] there.

Alice : [Who's face is still covered in ice cream from Chastity's driving] Huh? [Wipes her face] What's going on here?

Aphi : [Big smile and wave] Calm day, friends!

Tamsin: [Waves uneasily at Aphi and says to the party] Well, no Screamers, at least.

Aphi : Screamers? They sound very uncalm.

Austin : [Checking his suit] That lightening does awful things to ones clothes. All that static electricity.

Tamsin: [Looks Austin up and down and observes] I dunno. I think you look better a little scruffy.

Alice : Yeah, a [emphasis] little scruffy!

Aphi : What happened to you lot? Did you go back to your own time? Things have been rather uncalm here.

Tamsin: We've been back and forth in time a couple of times, actually. Never in one spot for very long though. What happened here? [Surveys the area, looking for signs of "uncalm.']

Bjorseth : [Points behind the party] We met some people. [Behind the party are about fifteen bodies, all SCREAMERS.]

Aphi : We also had more visitors. We were actually just waiting for someone else to come along.

Austin : [Looks at the screamers] Those are screamers, and yes they are most uncalm. [To Bjorseth] Who else did you meet?

Geneva: [To Alphi and Bjor, looking at the dead screamers.] YOU killed all these?

Bjorseth : Let's see, [counts them out on his fingers] there was Random, Amon, Daniel, Darius, Peter -

Aphi : [Bursts out laughing] Man! That Peter! What a guy!

Bjorseth : [Smiles at this, shaking his head, clearly looking back on something] And, of course, our favourite, despite his uncalm ways, Sven. It was him and Peter that helped us sort this lot out. [Goes a bit dreamy] And then there were the women! [Holds up his hand, which Aphi high fives, before continuing enthusiastically] Peter taught us that! He's just great!

Geneva: [Confused.] Well, where are they now? What were they doing here?

Tamsin: [Listens to Monty's theories somewhat incredulously and then chimes in] Hey, do you guys still have the Heart of the Beast on you?

Geneva: [Looks to the Calm Ones expectantly.] Yeah, do you?

Aphi : The Heart of the Beast? We never had it. Do you mean this? [Holds up the item that Geneva and Tamsin brought originally] This isn't the Heart, it's just shaped like it. Each of the ones who came back helped us get passed some obstacle.

Chastity : What on earth are you talking about, Mister Giles? That sounds exactly like Peter! What a guy!

Geneva: I don't know - didn't you see him gobble down that banana split?

Bjorseth : We've had to fight our way through a number of difficult tests, each time, however, someone has appeared just before we encountered them. [Turns to Geneva] There was even someone who looked quite like you, although she said you weren't related.

Alice : That was one of the tests? I mean, sure, she's cranky, but she's not that bad!

Tamsin: [To Bjorseth] What kind of tests, exactly? Screamers?

Geneva: [Rolls her eyes.] Spruce. The bitch! Why has she always been wherever I am? When she used to give me a book for Christmas or my birthday, she used to read it first, just so she could say "I read it first!" Aaarrrgh. [APHI and BJORSETH recoil from GENEVA's words in shock.]

Aphi : M-more lies? Hatred? Between siblings? [Plaintively] Bjorseth?

Bjorseth : [Holds his hand up] Let's not be hasty. [To the party] We've been attacked several times, had to overcome puzzles, all sorts of things. We did tell the others that you had been here, and what Alice said about the time travel. Most of them weren't surprised at the time element, a lot of them knew who you were, and some of them laughed when I mentioned Alice's calculations.

Alice : Hey!

Bjorseth : It's okay. I told them we were in love.

Alice : [Rolls her eyes] Did you tell them about the masturbation?

Bjorseth : No, I stopped that after the first few. Dealing with people from your time is difficult, but if it helps our love, then so be it.

Geneva: [Emphatically.] It's not hatred! [Considers.] It's more like 'mutual dislike'.

Tamsin: [Perks up at the conversation between Alice and Bjorseth and asks with a smirk] Wait, now--what about the masturbation?!

Geneva: [Quickly.] Oh, dude! That wasn't me!

Bjorseth : You see, Tamsin, I happened to tell Alice [speaks up a little to be heard over the sound of Alice's hand hitting her forehead] that I was thinking about her while masturbating, and everyone seemed to be shocked and offended.

Austin : [To Bjorseth] We rarely discuss sexual matters with strangers, and now is no better time than usual, so lets have a look at this artefact thingy. [Puts on a fresh pair of dodo skin gloves by Trada, and test to see it the artefact is hot to touch]

Geneva: Oooh what happened to the dodo? [To Austin.] Does it hurt?

Austin : [To Geneva] The Dodo? [Looks at his gloves] I expect it died when they made it into gloves. pauses But they are a good fit and they don't hurt at all thank you.

Alice : [Nods] Yes, as long as you keep away from that whole tight glove, situation, Geneva, it can be quite a pleasurable experience wearing gloves, especially if they fit properly. And, knowing Austin, his fit like a - well, like a glove. [APHI holds the item out to AUSTIN, who moves his hand near it, and can clearly feel the heat. He could probably touch it, but it would soon become difficult to hold.]

Bjorseth : [Unhappily] So when is a good time to discuss masturbation? Or love, for that matter? I'm starting to get the feeling that they're not totally unconnected.

Geneva: [Snappily.] How about never?

Bjorseth : Never talk about love? I don't think so. Your sister's friend seemed to talk about it quite a bit. [To Chastity] I thought you said that two women couldn't love each other.

Chastity : [Getting flustered] Genvea is quite right. This is no time for that sort of talk.

Geneva: [Imitating Monty sarcastically.] Arrghem! Yes, let's move on!!! The important question is, what did Spruce say about ME?

Austin : [To Geneva] Is Spruce your sister? [Steps back from the artefact] Ohh that's quite warm. [To Bjorseth] You can talk about love at any time really, especialy if it's love between two women. Tamsin and Geneva have some poetry about it. [Ponders the artefact] My guess is that this magical artefact is responsible for the time traveling, it's somekind of fate vortex [Muses].

Aphi : We asked Spruce if she was your sister, and she said no. Then we asked if Jusilla was her sister, because they seemed to be very close, and she said no, and then laughed.

Bjorseth : [To Austin] You're almost right. There is something that is responsible for the time travelling, but [dramatically] it's not the item, it's the heart of the beast.

Tamsin: Which is what, exactly? And what the hell is "the item"? It's a bit awkward to call it "The Item Formerly Known As the Heart of the Beast," after all.

Bjorseth : [Shrugs] I don't know. But whatever it is, it's bringing all of you here, apparantly to help us get to it.

Alice : Why don't we call it Brian? On Fri, 12 Nov 2004, Conor Ryan wrote:

Tamsin: [To Bjorseth, patiently] So, you don't know what or where the Heart of the Beast is, but you're absolutely sure that's what's causing all of this. Have I got that right? If so, how the hell do you know all that?! Lucky guess? [To Alice with a grin] Good idea. We'll name it ourselves. Brian's a bit dull, though, don't you think? [regards the items thoughtfully and offers] Looks more like a Trixy to me.

Austin : [Glancing at the artefact] Brian-Trixy, [Dismissively] If you can't make sensible suggestions why bother making them at all? At least some name like the 'Heart stone' or 'Heart gem', or anything that bears some relationship to the fact that it in the same shape as the heart of the beast.[Sighs]

Tamsin: [To Austin, gravely serious] You're quite right. We must be sensible at all costs. After all, there is nothing remotely comic or absurd about our situation. Why don't we compromise, then, and call it Lovey? [Tries to keep a straight face]

Stephen : Why stop there, where not call it lovey sweety darling! I like the sound of that! Makes it sound really, really movieish!

Tamsin: [Nods approvingly at Stephen] That IS better! [To Austin] That work for you?

Geneva: I am not calling *anything* that!

Austin : [Sighs, gets his dagger out] I wonder who we are going to meet next. [Checks the point of his dagger for extreeme sharpness]

Aphi : You know, excluding [indicates Geneva and Tamsin] you lot were the only ones not to be of any help, passengers as it were. Wasting our time. [Laughs] Bam! Just kidding!

Chastity : [Gives Aphi a dirty look] I seem some of Sven's rubunctiousness has rubbed off you.

Aphi : Seriously folks, you were the only ones to leave before you did something with us. What's that all about?

Tamsin: [To group, trying not to seem confused] Yeah, what's that all about, anyway?

Alice : [Turns to Chastity] Yeah, what [emphasis] is it all about?

Tamsin: [To Monty] Any idea what's causing it? This kind of thing happen to you before?

Aphi : The others all seemed as surprised as you were when they got here. [Looks at Tamsin and Geneva] Although not as surprised as either of you seemed to be. I'm pretty sure they didn't choose to come here, although it's probably true the chose to help us when we needed them. And yes, we saw the same lightning with all of them.

Alice : [To Tamsin] It has happened to us before, but we've used different ways to travel. There was lightning once, that was when Jerome and Harvey did it.

Tamsin: [With a sly glance at Austin] I wonder how Lovey [gestures to the pseudo Heart of the Beast] fits into all this? Just a replica? It must have some powers, don't you think? Burns like hell to touch it.

Alice : Not me! [To Aphi] Can I hold it? [Takes it from him] Ow!

Aphi : Are you okay?

Alice : Bam! Just kidding! [APHI says nothing but gives her a very, very dirty look.]

Chastity : What you say could be true, Mr. Giles, but why were all of you brought here too? And why did only I travel in the future? In fact, we don't even know if we are in the south.

Alice : [To Aphi] Hey, I didn't mean anything by it.

Aphi : [Huge smile] Bam! Gotcha! Ah, I'm just funnin', I can take it too!

Austin : [To Tamsin] The relic is clearly magical, as some percieve hit to be hot, and other, not. [Ponders] As for the time travel, it is probably due to the fact that we already know that to perform some tasks we must all be together, which is probably why we have returned here, as we have not yet done anything to help Aphi and Bjorseth.

Alice : So [clearly trying to figure it all out in her head] whoever's trying to get Chastity to Cachexia either doesn't know we're supposed to be here, or doesn't want us here?

Tamsin: [To Austin, impressed] Aha! Now it makes sense! [To Aphi and Bjorseth] What can we do for you two?

Austin : [To Alice] Well, it wold indeed seem as though we are being dragged back and forth in time, as if Phili and Seth were using us as pawns in their battle. [Calmy] Anyway, whatever is goind on we probably need to be together at this moment, and if we don't do whatever it is we have to do together then we'll probably end up like Trindle. Murdering tratiorous scum. Keelhauling would be way to good for him.

Austin : [To Bjorseth, with the look of a thirsty vampire who has just remembered what the blood of a virgin tastes like] Yes, Trindle murdered my beloved fiancee, Lucy.

Chastity : [Irritated] Perhaps, Mister Giles, you should establish my guilt before telling me not to feel guilty.

Bjorseth : [Like Aphi, taken aback at Austin's words] Trindle? He's the one who killed Lucy?

Tamsin: [Absorbs Austin's comment for a moment then says sincerely, to Austin] Sorry to hear about that. I wouldn't have teased you so much if I'd known you'd gone through something like that. No wonder you've been so testy.

Alice : Actually, Tam, he was always like that.

Bjorseth : [Clearly dying to discuss this matter at length, and genuinely interested] So did you regret loving her? Given all the pain it seems to have caused you?

Austin : [To Bjorseth, suprised] No. Of course not. [Ponders Bjorseth] We have a saying, ' Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'.

Bjorseth : [Raises an eyebrow as he glances over at Alice] Then, my friend, it must be wonderful.

Austin : [To Bjorseth] It was. [Pauses] So, we are here to perform some deed together, and the relice apprears to be involved as does the 'Heart of the Beast', so why don't we venture down into the 'Heart of the Beast' and find out what the hell is going on here.

Tamsin: [Looks at Austin, still somewhat dazed by the notion that he might actually have some depth, and asks warily] What do you mean, 'venture down into'? I thought the Heart of the Beast was a thing, like Lovey here? What'd I miss?

Tamsin: Oh, good to know. Guess that's what I get from coming late to the party, eh? [Shrugs nonchalantly] Well, I'm in. Let's check it out, then. Which way? [Surveys the area curiously]

Aphi : [Point down one of two corridors leading to this area] That's the way we're heading, so whatever's waiting for us is down there. [Draws his sword with a big smile] Ready for the uncalmness? [APHI and BJORSETH head down the corridor, which is easily wide enough for four to walk abreast.]

Bjorseth : [To Alice] You can walk with me if you like.

Alice : Er, that's okay. I'll take up the rear. Last from Conor #68

Geneva: [Drawing her dagger, and smiling at the sound.] I'm up the front.. where the action is!

Austin : [Cautiously moves to the middle of the center row, readying his sling. To Geneva] Well if it's quiet action we may also gain the advantage of suprise on Contagion, if he is indeed in the heart.

Geneva: [Very, very quietly and cautiously, but with a twinkle of battle in her eye.] Pah! Contagion and his battle! [Even more quietly.] I say we storm him altogether! [The last word is so quiet, it's mouthed.]

Alice : It's hardly likely to be Contagion, it's years before he ends up in the volcano, and anyway, there's no proof this is even the same one. Not every volcano contains a Contagion.

Monty : Ahem. I believe I shall also take the front. [The group arrange themselves in the order MONTY, BJORSETH, APHI, GENEVA in the first row, CHASTITY, TAMSIN, AUSTIN and STEPHEN in the second, and ALICE at the back on her own.]

Aphi : [Holds his hand up to stop everyone, and whispers] I think there's someone up there, listening to us. I've got a plan. [Turns forward and bellows] Hello?

Tamsin: [To Aphi warily, keeping her eyes moving for any sign of activity] Let's hear the plan, then.

Geneva: [Sighing, but still whispering.] So much for the silent approach, Alphi! Could you possibly be any louder? [Trying to keep her whispers to a minimum.] Something tells me we need stealth, Alphi! Do you understand? Contagion is Not Your Friend!

Aphi : Huh? This is the plan, we call him! [Shouts out again] Hello!

Alice : [Clearly annoyed at being at the back on her own] Maybe we could try sneaking up? Geneva: [Sighing, but still whispering.] So much for the silent

Aphi : Uh, sure I could. [Roars even louder] Hello! [Turns back to Geneva] Who's Contagion?

Bjorseth : Someone Alice said didn't enter a volcano for about another quarter of a million years. You know, you really should listen to her more often. In fact, Alice, why don't you come up to the front so you can tell us again?

Alice : [Sigh] No. It's okay. I'm fine.

Tamsin: [Wincing] Oh, THAT was the whole plan?! Er, no offense, Aphi, but I gotta go with Red and Princess here. Let's maybe keep it quiet, at least until we can see what we're up against?

Geneva: [Swearing lots, but still quietly under her breath.]For Phili's sake! BE QUIET! [If she can see Alphi she motions the dagger quietly and cautiously at his belly.]

Geneva: [Quietly.] Or we could run up with daggers drawn and battle cries in our hearts.

Aphi : Oh, okay. But since someone's careless shouting alerted them to our presence, what are we to do?

Alice : I have plan. [In classic hand cupping mouth stance and very stilted] Right. There's obviously nothing to see here. Let's all go home then. [Quietly, to the others, hardly able to contain herself with the excitement of her brilliant plan] Now, we all start walking on the spot making loud noises, but [leans in with a huge smile] we make less noise with each step, so they think we're walking away. Oh! Oh! Or, we could walk backwards up the corridor, so when they see us they'll get confused because they'll only be able to see our backs, and they'll be all like "Oh, they must be walking away" and we'll be all like "Snigger, snigger" and then they'll be all "Gah! Where did they come from?" [Looks to the others expectantly]

Tamsin: [Tries not to laugh] Well, that's a fine plan, Princess. I know I always fight better when I'm walking backwards, anyway. I say let's just keep moving on. We're bound to face it one way or another. Might as well be facing forward, at least.

Tamsin: [Nods approvingly] You should always listen to the advice of the recently deceased. Er, wait a minute. . . .

Chastity : [To Alice] That's probably the most stupid plan I've ever heard, young lady. [Turns to Geneva] With the possible exception of yours, my girl. Perhaps we should, in the words of a deceased party member, use caution.

Bjorseth : Deceased? What happened to him?

Alice : He wasn't cautious enough.

Tamsin: [Sword out, falling in line with the rest of the party] I'm ready. I could use a little action after this weird day. Got some frustration to take out, you know?

Alice : Ah yes, poor old Nik. How well I remember his ..um, the way he used to ..., uh, how well I remember him. [Draws her sword] Let's be ready for this.

Chastity : Okay, let's move forward cautiously. [The party inch forward for a few minutes, until they realise they have travelled about two inches in that time.]

Stephen : Well, maybe not that cautiously. Listen, does anyone hear anything? [There is a shuffling sound ahead of someone moving, which soon stops, to be replaced by what is clearly someone trying to stifle a cough, before coughing uncontrollably with a real old man, cigarette smoker's death rattle cough.]

Alice : Well, I can't hear anything with all that coughing.

Austin : [To Alice, whispering] Yes, but who is coughing?

Alice : [As a decriped old man staggers into view, pausing only to spit up a big glob of phlegm that gets stuck in his beard] Maybe him?

Bumblebore : Hail, friends. Welcome to the final test.

Bumblebore : Very, very tired. [Gives another phlegmy cough] My name is Bumble-cough [breaks into another coughing fit] Bumblebore.

Austin : [To Bumbledore] Hi. I am Austin Sleaze, but I expect that you already know that. [To Monty] He's the guy who knows what is going on!

Bumblebore : Eh? How would I know that? You young folk are all the same, you think you own the place, that the whole world revolves around you. Well, let me tell you lad, it doesn't, why, back in my day when we met one of our elders we would not presume to expect that they would know who we were. Oh no, a polite shake of the hand, unless, of course, you had a potato hanging on your belt, which, in my day, was quite the fashionable accessory. Some days I wore two. On other occasions, three. Why, [laughs at the memory] I once wore five! And then there was the time I had six, we had quite a day then, let me tell you.

Alice : [After waiting for him to get to thirteen] Have you ever worn four?

Bumblebore : [Gives Alice a very dirty look] What? Of course not, that would just be stupid.

Tamsin: [To Austin, skeptically] Why would he already know you?

Bumblebore : Good question, my girl! Good question! In fact, it reminds me of the time I met a very good friend of mine, the best friend I ever had, as a matter of fact, the best friend any man ever had, Joe was his name. Or was it Dave? But anyway, one day I met Brian, and had four potatoes hanging from his belt, so I asked him, I said "Why?".

Tamsin: [To Bumblebore, nodding knowingly] I know what you mean! Say, Mr. Bumblebore, didn't you mention something about a test? Not sure what the

Bumblebore : Yes, yes, the final test. You know, when they were giving out the jobs, I could have picked anyone I wanted. I could have had the first, or the second or even the third or fifth tests. [Nods knowingly] The sixth was also up for grabs, and, of course, everyone thought I'd go for either the seventh or eighth, but I didn't fancy them any more than the ninth. So I took the final one.

Alice : Let me guess, the fourth wasn't an option?

Bumblebore : [Scoldingly] You know, something, lass, if every time you open your mouth you're going to ask such stupid questions, it might be better for everyone if you kept quiet.

Bjorseth : [Quietly to the party] Let's kill him.

Austin : [Sighs and rolls his eyes. To Tamsin] I thought he might know who we were because he knew that we were here for a challenge of some form. It seems , however, that the assumption of familiarity was a mistake and that the old man has no idea who we are. Or who anyone is, for that matter. Should get on well with Chassers. [To Bumblebore] What is this challenge you spoke of? the jobs, I could have picked anyone I wanted. I could have had the first, or the second or even the third or fifth tests. [Nods knowingly] The sixth was also up for grabs, and, of course, everyone thought I'd go for either the seventh or eighth, but I didn't fancy them any more than the ninth. So I took the final one. open your mouth you're going to ask such stupid questions, it might be better for everyone if you kept quiet.

Tamsin: [Shrugs and says to Austin] Oh, I thought it was just because of your enormous swollen ego. [Eyes Bjorseth warily after hearing his suggestion to kill Bumblebore]

Austin : [To Tamsin, indignantly] No, don't be so stupid. Why would an old man stuck down a volcano thousands of years in the past and miles from Queensview have heard of my ego? [Laughs in disbelief] Ridiculous suggestion. [To Bumblebore] Please continue.

Alice : Er, public health warning maybe?

Bjorseth : [Sees Tamsin's look] I didn't like the way he spoke to Alice.

Bumblebore : Oh, this is the greatest of all challenges. It is a multi-part test. Guess how many parts there are, go on, take a guess!

Bumblebore : [Annoyed] Take a guess!

Alice : Is it three hundred and ninety one?

Bumblebore : Oh for crying out loud! Idiot! It's four!

Austin : [To Bublebore] Well can you just stop riddiculing Alice and tell us what the first challenge is, if you're soooo clever.

Geneva: My dagger fingers are getting itchy! [Motions to Bumblebore to get on with it and quickly.]

Bumblebore : [Frowns slightly at Geneva before turning to Austin] Of course I'm clever, why else do you think I have such a long beard?

Alice : [Folding her arms petulantly] For storing chicken bones and bits of phlegm?

Bumblebore : [Annoyed] No. [Wipes his nose with with his beard, before glaring at the party] Strictly speaking, that's snot, not phlegm. Anyway, your first task is to get passed me, the sole surviving Path Gallant. [Puffs himself up, as though expecting gasps of awe]

Geneva: I know that name! [Motions to Tamsin.] That's where I met Stretch, here.

Alice : You were at Path Gallant? [Confused] I thought his name was Pat Gallant?

Stephen : I thought he said his name was Babblecough or something. To be honest, I've been stunned into insensibility by the state of his beard! I'm sure I saw a rats head poking out a few minutes ago!

Geneva: Aarrgh. It's not so bad. I've seen worse on a pirate! [To Bumblebore.] Were you ever a pirate?

Bumblebore : Certainly not!

Geneva: [Disappointed.] Oh. So what was that place... the Temple of the Gallants, anyway? And what do you have to do with the 'heart of the beast' ... err or as we call it [mumbles it very fast] Sweetie, Darling?

Austin : [To Geneva] Was the Temple of the Gallants in or in close proximity to a placebium mine?

Geneva: Then tell us of the challenge. [To the others, motioning to Bumblebore.] This guy's apparently got time to kill!

Tamsin : What's a Placebium mine?

Bumblebore : The Heart of the Beast? Well now, I haven't heard that name in, oh, what is it, ten? Fifteen? Oh, maybe it's forty, or actually, maybe I never heard it at all. Now, if you're looking for The Heart, well now, that's a different story entirely.

Alice : [Rolls her eyes] Please don't tell it.

Bumblebore : I am the Gatekeeper. The first part of the challenge will be to get passed me.

Alice : [Checks her watch] Why don't we just hang around for a while, he's bound to die sooner or later.

Austin : [Tries to walk past Bumblebore. To Bumblebore] Excuse me.

Bumblebore : [Steps back] Of course. [AUSTIN approaches a large arch, inside which is a room about forty foot square with another arch leading out at the opposite side. In the middle is a small table with a box on it.]

Alice : Well, that was surprisingly easy.

Tamsin: [Shrugs and tries to follow Austin, saying to Bumblebore on the way past] Good talking to you.

Bumblebore : Of course. What nice people you are. [As everyone starts advancing, AUSTIN reaches the archway, whereupon he is thrown back against the rest of the party.]

Alice : Ah. Maybe it wasn't all that easy after all.

Tamsin: [To Bumblebore] Oh, sorry about that. Guess we skipped part of the test there. Want to get us started? [Watched Bumblebore expectantly, bracing herself]

Austin : [Calmy dusts himself down and checks his suit to sooth out any unwanted creases, gets his pocket mirror out, a little uneasily, smarting from the pain of the impact, and checks his hair. To Bumblebore] What did that?

Austin : [Sighs, gets out a cheesearette and lights up, checking to see which way his smoke rings go. To Bumblebore] So, what is, or are, Path Gallant? What does that mean?

Aphi : [Steps forward] You've got something to do with the Path, don't you?

Bumblebore : Indeed I do. Many people guess it from our name. I see that you are all on the Path, and that some have come further than others, and that some don't even realise they are on it. We help maintain the integrity of the Path.

Tamsin: [To Bumblebore] Yeah, that's news to me, being on the Path. How exactly do you maintain the integrity of the Path, if you don't mind my asking? [Glances at Austin and asks through gestures if she can bum a cheesearette]

Bumblebore : By making sure that only those who deserve to can get to see the Heart. I've waited a long time for someone to make it through the other tests, and, quite frankly, I'm surprised that so many of you are here. Did many die on the journey here?

Bjorseth : About twenty of our people.

Bumblebore : [Nods] I see, so you are doing very well.

Austin : [Passes the cheesearette to Tamsin. To Bumblebore] We lost Clint, Harvey, Sister Mullane, and several others. How do you test us to see if we deserve to ge to the Heart?

Bumblebore : [To Tamsin] No, I'm fine. [To Austin] The Heart. It's actually quite powerful. I may only be the humble gatekeeper, but I still am a Path Gallant, so I do know something about.

Alice : Tell us everything you know about the Heart.

Bumblebore : It's actually quite powerful.

Tamsin: [Passes Austin a single dirty limerick in "payment" for the cheesearette and patiently waits for Bumblebore's answer]

Bumblebore : I am the gatekeeper. You need to show me the Key of the Heart to get passed.

Tamsin: [To group] Hey, who's got Lovey?

Alice : [Holds out the item] Is this what you're looking for?

Bumblebore : [Lost for words] It - it's really here. [Drops to his knees, with tears in his eyes] At last! At last!

Alice : Well, is it?

Chastity : [Cuffs Alice around the ear] Mind your tone, young lady. Do not speak to your elders and - [looks Bumblebore up and down] to your elders like that.

Stephen : [To Bumblebore] Well, is it? [Dodges away from Chastitys reach]

Bumblebore : Yes! She holds the Key to the Heart, and unprotected!

Alice : [Cockily] Hey, I always go unprotected. [Smiles for a moment] I mean, hey! What's that supposed to mean?

Stephen : I shudder to think! [To Bumblebore] So, are you just going to stay on your knees, or give us some action. [Looks dreamy for a moment]

Tamsin: [Distracted momentarily by the potential for some disturbing man-on-man action, collects her thoughts and then says to Bumblebore somewhat defensively] What do you mean 'unprotected'?! We're all protecting it! [Looks around at the party for assurance]

Alice : [Gives Stephen a look of disgust] What kind of action are you looking for?

Aphi : Old timer, what is the nature of the test?

Bumblebore : You already have passed it. It was to ask advice from an old man. somewhat defensively What do you

Stephen : [Snapping back to reality] But...but, what kind of a test is that? If we'd asked you for a toilet, or directions, or, or, what the time was, or what's up with the beard, we'd have passed the test?

Tamsin: [To Stephen, pragmatically] Why complain? We passed it, didn't we? [To Bumblebore] Er, what happens now, then?

Bumblebore : Now you walk through the archway. You would be surprised at how few people actually bother to ask an old man for help. Most try to force their way through or kill me.

Bjorseth : So have there been many other groups trying to get in here?

Bumblebore : Two. One tried to force their way through. The other tried to kill me.

Austin : [To Alice] I think that he means that your hands need not be protected, because you do not feel the heat from the key. [To Bumblebore] Thank you for your assistance and patience. [To Alice] After you [Gestures through the archway]

Geneva: Bjor and Alphi could also touch the key - perhaps one of them should go in first. [Looks to Austin.] And you can be the control in the experiment, if they get through unscathed, you can go next, and if you don't get shocked again it might mean it's ok for the rest of us!

Bumblebore : It was my pleasure, young lad. [To Monty] I'm afraid not, I don't know what they are. No one has ever returned from the next room.

Chastity : How many of the two groups that you saw before went in?

Bumblebore : None.

Alice : [Waving the item in front of her like it was a fan, and putting on her best Souther drawl] Why, fiddle-de-dee, Mister Sleaze, I do declare that if'n y'all aren't the most gracious man in this here county that I'll just have to die.

[ALICE steps through the arch, trying to hide how gingerly she does it, but it just gives a brief fizzle, and she is through.]

Alice : [Looking back] Now, how do the rest of you get through.

Bjorseth : I'll go! [Quickly steps through] Hi Alice.

Alice : [Rolls her eyes] You know, I'm pretty sure it's safe for the rest of you to come too.

Geneva: [To Alice.] To paraphrase Chastity: caution

Aphi : Bzzzt! [Everyone, especially MONTY, gives a jump, although it is immediately apparant that MONTY can pass through safely.]

Aphi : [With a big smile] Bam! Gotcha! [Strolls through] Looks like it's safe, folks.

Geneva: [Humourlessly.] Heh. Good one Alphi. [Walks cautiously through the archway, her dagger drawn.]

Chastity : [To Bumblebore as the rest of the party step through] Do you have any advice for us?

Bumblebore : Indeed, young lady, indeed I do. Remember, that although the Path chose you, it is you who chooses the Path. [There is another fizzle around the arch after CHASTITY steps through.]

Bumblebore : [Turns away with a sigh] They're screwed.

Alice : Hey! We can still hear you!

Bumblebore : Oh! I mean, I'm sure you'll get to the end, no problem! [Book IV, Act V, Scene XII. The Dome. APHI, BJORSETH, ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, GENEVA, MONTY, STEPHEN and TAMSIN are here. This is clearly a man made structure, with an identical arch at the other side. In the middle of the room is a small stone table with a wooden box on it.]

Aphi : [With a big smile] You know, I can feel we're getting close to the Heart.

Geneva: [Sarcastically.] No, really? [Looks at Alice.] Alice, you were brave enough to step through first... you should open the box.

Alice : No, Geneva, I think you'll find that because I was brave enough to step through first, someone else should open the box.

Geneva: Oh, I see. [Is quiet for a second pondering the treasures that might be inside.] Ok, then, I'll open it. [Steps forward, and attempts to open the box.] didn't hit my [GENEVA steps forward and easily opens the box. Everyone can see that it holds what appear to be a deck of cards, which have the same pattern on the back as the cards previously found from the Deck of The Path.]

Monty : Ahem. This is most curious. [Goes up closer] One wonders what those cards contain.

Austin : [To Geneva] You know all this getting others to try things first because you are too scared really spoils your teenage girl wannabe swashbuckling image. [Strolls around the room checking the walls for secret hidden things] Last from Dom #6

Geneva: [Sputtering.] Well I didn't see you step up to offer! All of this, making-observations-without-acting is really helping your lawyer image!

Austin : [Giggles at Cheryl] I was first to try going through the archway, and anyway, I'm not pretending to be a swashbuckling pirate. [Checks his nails on his right hand]

Alice : So what kind of pirate are you? [The cards all appear to be blank.]

Chastity : Now that is strange. They do seem to be ethe same as the ones we found before.

Lines: 8

Tamsin: [Looks Austin up and down and asks him] And what is it [emphasis] you're pretending to be again?

Lines: 9 CC test 2

Lines: 14

Austin : [To Tamsin] I'm not pretending at all. Perhaps you will understand if I show yout the most beautiful creature in the world. [Austin carefully rolls back Maplin's sleeve, and holds him aloft for Tamsin to see his awesome beauty] Behold, Maplin, glory in his magnificence.

Lines: 12

Tamsin: [To Austin, "awestruck"] It's so much bigger than the other, lesser arm! You must work it out constantly.

Austin : [Suprised, to Tamsin] You have seen Serendipity? I don't recall ever showing you Serendipity, and I pretty sure he's the same size. [Rolls down Maplin's sleeve and checks Serendipity's size] Yes, they are the same size. [Unrolls Serendipity's sleeve. Ponders] Work out? Me! [Laughs] You must be joking, I was born this good looking. [Turns away and continues checking the walls etc]

Alice : There's only one kind of exercise Austin likes to do with Maplin, Tamsin.

Monty : [Tuts in annoyance at Geneva] Please! They are not toys. [Flicks through them all] They are all blank.

Tamsin: [Smirks at Alice then turns her attention to the cards] Blank, eh? Try asking 'em for advice. That worked with Bumblebore.

Alice : Where are the cards we already had? Are they the same? [CHASTITY holds out the previously discovered cards.]

Chastity : [To Geneva and Tamsin] We've been lead to believe that these cards possess mystical powers, although we've yet to see them. Each of the people on them are now dead, and all helped our party in one way or another.

Stephen : Perhaps they'll stay blank until we start dropping down dead!

Tamsin: [Looks at Stephen and shudders] Well, I'm just thrilled Red and I were able to help you people out, then.

Stephen : [Hands on hips] Well, at least someone is. [Looks at the cards] Why else would they be blank...unless of course, those people who helped us out haven't even been born yet, so there's no way there images could be on those cards!

Tamsin: [To Stephen] That's a cheerful thought. Unborn children are already doomed because they'll be helpful to you people some day. So, do the people on these cards have anything else in common?

Alice : [Raises her eyebrowas] It's pretty arrogant for you to assume that you're going to be on a card, isn't it Stephen? Or any of us for that matter.

Monty : Perhaps I should explain to the new party members who those on the cards are. [Holds up the Priestess Card] Marasmus Bane, a long time Hierophantic Knight who was killed by Iok Sotot. [The Emperor] Colonel Harvey Kingston Short III, leader of this party and uncle to Alice, killed by Dangsten Blackheart, I believe. [The Hierophant] Adam Torque, a very holy man who often helped the Knights. [The Sun] A brave, if somewhat headstrong Knight, alas killed in mysterious circumstances, and [Page of Wands] Clint Scar, killed by a zombie named Barthelomew. [Looks pleased with himself]

Alice : Almost right. Except Adam was an evil man who tried to kill us several times, imprisoned loads of people, took the credit for us defeating Iok and, worst of all, urinated on us. Now, maybe you, Monty, might find that kind of thing easy to swallow, but I don't care how much he helped us in the end. He was an old scumbag who deserved to die.

Chastity : And poor old Sven was killed by Tom Sellsick, bravely saving Faetan's life.

Tamsin: [To Monty wryly, noting his expression] Guess all that Watchin' paid off, then. [To the party] Someone mind telling me about these Knights I keep hearing about? [Suddenly looks nervous and adds] They're not--cops, or something, are they?

Alice : [Laughs at Tamsin's foolishness] No! Of course not! Don't be ridiculous! They - [face drops as she turns to the others, very serious] they're not, are they?

Monty : Ahem. The Hierophantic Knights are an ancient organisation dedicated to fighting evil. Ordinarily, I wouldn't be able to tell you about them, but it is clear that you have some part to play, given your relationship to the [gestures towards the item] the. Yes.

Aphi : Knights? As in swashbuckling heroes? Shining armour? Chivalry? Chastity belts? Honour?

Monty : [Reading from a notebook] More as in drunken, arrogant, swaggering, hedonistic scumbags who, in any decent society, would have been incarcerated years ago, but who, through some bizarre divine intervention appear to cause slightly more good than harm. [Looks up] That was written by another watcher. You will understand if I keep his name secret.

Aphi : [Big smile] Wow! They sound like my kind of Knights! [To the party] that Peter. Boy, does that guy know how to party!

Geneva: [Opens her mouth to say something to Alphi, shakes her head, and addressed the party instead.] So... do you think that getting through that shield constitutes the first challenge, or there's more to it? [She examines each of the cards very carefully.]

Alice : Yeah, it's not exactly what you'd expect from a place called the Heart of the Beast. Where are all the pits? The spikes shooting out of the walls? The huge boulders rolling after us as we run for our lives?

Aphi : Tests three, five and eight, respectively. [Points at the opposite arch] Let's see if we can rustle up something scary.

Geneva: And how do you propose we hasten this process, kill each other? Everyone else on the other cards are apparently dead. [Muses.] Perhaps we could kill Bumblebore and see if he appears on the card. [Taps her dagger, pleased.]

Geneva: So apart from being dead, and encountering you lot, is there any other common thread with these people?

Austin : [To Monty] Did we not see the Colonel on a card before he died? [Shrugs] Perhaps not [Holds up some bronze amulets in the shape of the relic] Anybody want one of these? [Hands one to each party member] They are a little lackluster but they do make fairly plesant memorabelia, for those of us who live through this, that is.

Geneva: [Taking one and examining it curiously.] Arrrggh! They're almost like treasure. Or like Memento Mori. [Places it in her belt pouch and wipes her hands on her pants as if she's been contaminated.]

Alice : [Also takes one] What are these? Where did they come from?

Austin : [To Alice] They are bronze medalions, from the corpses of the screamers. [Casually strolls around the room checking it out] Well, shall we move on?

Tamsin: [To Austin] You know, I'm going to write something just for you. As soon as I can think of a good rhyme for "Maplin." Last from Heather #29

Geneva: 'If you die you'll need a chaplain?'

Tamsin: [With a grin to Geneva] Won't work for this one. This one will be a love poem. Well, a self-love poem, more accurately.

Geneva: Well what about - Oh! [Cuts off abruptly and assist Monty and Austin scouting the area.]

Alice : [To Tamsin] How about banker? [There seems to be absolutely nothing else in this room, and that the choice is to either head back the way they came, or carry on.]

Stephen : The choice that faces us is obvious. Do we leave the cards here? Or take them with us?

Tamsin: [To Alice, trying to keep a straight face] Er, maybe. [To the party] Well, the first answer was to ask advice of an old man. So maybe you're supposed to prove you're a goody-goody hero type with this. Maybe we're supposed to not take them. Show we're not crooks or something. I dunno. What do you think?

Alice : Hm. That kind of suggests that the Heart of the Beast has something to do with them, doesn't it?

Geneva : By the way, what the hell is this path everyone's talking about?

Alice : [Shrugs] I'm not sure. It seems to be some kind of journey, possibly spiritual - er, possibly ending with you meeting God. The thing is, and this doesn't make any sense, is that it seems to be possible to take an evil path and [tails off, clearly without a clue about what she's trying to explain] still, you know.

Bjorseth : [Squeezes Austin's shoulder] You mean like the evil traitorous bastard Trindle did?

Tamsin: What have you tried to do with these cards before? If this here's the whole deck, maybe we should try shuffling the ones you have with the blanks and try to do a reading or something. I mean, that's what these things are for, right?

Chastity : Certainly not, young lady! You are confusing them with tarot cards, the devil's playing cards! Now, it might be true that there is something different about these ones, but, and make no mistake about it, these are quite, quite different.

Alice : They look the same to me.

Chastity : [Triumphantly to Tamsin] Point proven!

Chastity : Fine, Mr. Giles. Why don't you find someone who's proficient in reading these things?

Tamsin: [Shrugs] Don't look at me. Maybe we should hang onto them, then, and find someone who knows how to read them? Still don't see how that's a test, exactly.

Austin : [Ponders the cards] Well Chassers seems to know the most about them, about their evilness etc, [Smirks] and she is probably less likely to be corrupted by their evil powers. If they exist.

Stephen : Look, why don't we try to rip a corner off one of the new blank cards and see if one of the cards Alice has suddenly loses a corner. That way at least we'll know if they're the same cards!

Alice : Good idea. Off you go.

Austin : [Looks at Stephen doubtfully, then at Alice. Sigh] You might as well cut them all in half one by one.

Tamsin: This doesn't exactly strike me as the way to pass this test. [To Aphi and Bjorseth] How'd you pass the other tests? Were the rest of them all about dodging and killing things? Last from Heather #46

Geneva: [Gagging.] Please be joking. [Considers.] If it was a test where I had to stab the spiders, it could be o.k.

Aphi : All except that one where we had to eat the spiders.

Aphi : Well, we didn't [emphasis] have to eat them!

Bjorseth : [Gives Aphi a dirty look] We're not even sure it was a spider. It could just have easily been a fly. [To the party, by way of explanation] It was a very dark tunnel, with many insects, some reptiles and what seemed to be a really big toenail. [STEPHEN gives an involuntary shiver.]

Alice : Maybe it was both? Maybe the spider went in to catch the fly? Last from Conor #49

Geneva: [Glancing at Alice and then addressing Alphi and Bjor.] Yes, well. Anyway. Apart from eating spiders - which may or may not have been mandatory to the challenge - what else can you tell us, specifically about what we may be facing.

Tamsin: [Nods in agreement] Well, let's just go on, then. That'll focus us quick enough. Last from Heather #52

Geneva: [Drawing her dagger.] Right you are stretch!

Stephen : But the cards! Won't someone please think of the cards?

Geneva: [Over her shoulder to Stephen.] Bring 'em along then! with optus

Bjorseth : Everyone happy with that? [Looks at the opposite arch] Looks like this is the only way to go.

Tamsin: [Shrugs and heads through the archway, sword ready] I'll be the guinea pig this time.

Stephen : So, er, [holding out the cards] who wants to look after these? [There is a crackle of energy as TAMSIN approaches the archway, that sends her flying back into the room.]

Alice : [Looks at Tamsin, then at the arch, then at Tamsin and once again at the arch] I think we may need some sort of key!

Tamsin: [Reluctantly, eyeing the archway suspiciously] Should I try again and take the cards this time?

Austin : [To Tamsin, sarcasticly] Yes, and if that doesn't work then try the key which worked the first time.

Tamsin: [Gestures at the arch and snaps at Austin irritably] After you, Your Highness.

Alice : [With a big smile] Actually, I believe this is a job for the Princess. [Strolls nonchalantly up the archway, swinging the item around her index finger. To her obvious dismay, she too, is thrown back with a fizzle of sparks] Ow! Great idea, Austin.

Austin : [To Tamsin] To Tamsin, you can call me Austin, I wont mind, and you may also go first, I don't want to steal your moment of glory, so why don't you hold the cards and the relic when you try to go through the door? Princess. [Strolls nonchalantly up the archway, swinging the item around her index finger. To her obvious dismay, she too, is thrown back with a fizzle of sparks] Ow! Great idea, Austin.

Tamsin: [Stifling a laugh, to Austin] Wanna try it with the cards this time?

Austin : [Helping Alice off the floor and dusting her down] Well it was just an idea, you knew what the consequences would be if the relic did not do as we expected, and therefore I deny any responsibility for the consequences of your actions.

Alice : [Still lying on the ground, unimpressed at the lack of sympathy] I guess you'd better get your big pants out Tam. [BJORSETH leaps in action and is soon by her side, hugging her.]

Bjorseth : There there. I'll comfort you. [Glances over at Austin and asks quietly] Is this a good time to talk about masturbation?

Aphi : [Shakes his head sadly] Poor old Bjorseth, looks like he's never going to get that love thing sorted.

Bjorseth : [Steps back stiffly] I'll take that as a no then.

Alice : [To Tamsin and Geneva] That's about as close as you'll ever get to an apology from Austin.

Tamsin: [To Alice, smirking] Yeah, apparently contrition is bad for the skin tone.

Stephen : Say, Sister Chastity, don't nuns spend a lot of time being contrite? Now it all makes sense!

Chastity : Oh, hush up, you wicked man. Now quickly, why don't one of you try going through the arch with the deck?

Austin : [To Alice] That was not an appology, just be thankful Bj didn't take the opportunity to masturbate. [To Bjorseth] There are remarkable few 'good times' to talk about masturbation, and never ever talk about it when you are trying to woo a lady. [Fixes Alice's hair a little.] There we are. [Strolls over to Bumblebore but stays in the room. To Bumblebore] So, could you tell us how to get through this challenge, and the rest of them too, if possible?

Alice : [Irritably flicks her hair after Austin's interference] The worst of it, Bjor, is that he's right. Let's just keep the masturbation related chat to a minimum for now, okay?

Bumblebore : Eee, now, young lad, I know a lot of challenges. There was all that drill when I was a young ballerina. I spent hour after hour, spinning on my toe, my tutu flowing gracefully with me. There were many challenges then, let me tell you, from the simplest adagio to the most exciting allegro. I worked on my arabesques, my entrechats and my grand jetes, each of them more challenging than the last. [Goes a little misty eyed] But for one glorious semester, I held the record for the most fouettes in Madamoselle De La Fontaine's Ballerina School. [Face darkens] Until they introduced those damned gender tests.

Tamsin: [To Bumblebore, sympathetically] Tough luck, there. [To the group, shrugging] All right, hand me the cards. I'll try again if no one else has another idea.

Stephen : [Peels a card off the deck and flips it across to Tamsin like a ninja star, which she catches expertly] There y'go.

Alice : Sorry, did he just say he was a ballerina?

Stehen : [To Bumblebore] Well, as enlightening as that ballerina story was, do you happen to have any advice pertaining to this challenge which now awaits us? [Stamps his foot in annoyance]

Bumblebore : No.

Stephen : [Glares at Bumblebore before turning to Tasmin] Well, [gestures towards the arch] knock yourself out!

Alice : [To Stephen] Why don't you knock yourself out with it? [Grumbles] Gives us all a bit of peace for once.

Stephen : Well she's the one who wants to try getting through with the cards! Unless you want to try it first. I mean, you're quite used to spending most of your time on your back.

Alice : Unlike you, Stephen, who's more interested in exploring dark passages.

Austin : [Grimacing at the the down turn in the conversation. To Bubblebore, showing him an amulet] Do you happen to now what these do, or used to do? All of the screamers were wearing them.

Stephen : Not exploring passages where there's a chance of getting more of a shock than I bargained for, missy! I still shudder when I think about Gichard Rere!

Alice : [Wrinkling up her nose in disgust] And I shudder when I think about you! Geneva, can't you stab in the belly or something?

Geneva : If I have to listen to this conversation any longer, I think I'm gonna stab myself in the belly!

Bumblebore : Ah yes, the sign of the Anti-Path.

Alice : [Smiling at her cleverness] And what do you call people who wear them? [As though expecting a drum roll] Antipathies?

Bumblebore : [Dead serious] Yes. My mother was killed anipathies. And my father. And my two sisters. And my little brother. And those orphans we were giving shelter to. And my pet dog, Savage. [Thinks for a moment] Oh wait, it was actually Savage who killed them all.

Geneva: [Annoyed.] Oh Shush! You're all louder than a flock of seagulls fighting over scraps on the poop deck! [to Tamsin.] If you're sure, Stretch, choose a card - and try. You've got my dagger at your service should you need it!

Alice : [Rolls her eyes with such force that the others can almost hear them] And what has your contribution been so far, Mr. Monty? All you've done is stand around coughing and telling us how things aren't going to work.

Tamsin : [Holds up the card Stephen gave her] Way ahead of you, Red, and good to have you at my back. [Steps through the arch, but is thrown back with considerably more force than the others were]

Bjorseth : Perhaps we should take a calmer approach to this? ahead of you, Red, and arch, but is thrown back to this?

Geneva: Calmer? [Looks down at herself, dagger at the ready, and her stance ready for battle.] I am calm! If I was any calmer, I'd be pratically horizontal! [Watching Tamsin fly past her and moving to help her up.] Looks like you chose the wrong card, Stretch!

Tamsin: [Wryly, wincing in pain] Well, I guess that answers the question of whether or not we'll be taking the deck with us. Anyone else got any bright ideas? Lat from Heather #82

Bjorseth : Well, it really only answers the question of whether or not we'll only be taking one card with us.

Geneva: Ok, I'll bite. [Looks around.] Any objections to me going in with the full deck?

Alice : You'll bite if there are any? Or if there aren't any?

Stephen : [Handing the rest of the cards over so Geneva now has them all] Well done, superb stuff. [Steps back and gives a polite golf clap]

Geneva: [Putting her dagger away and snatching the cards from Austin. Sneeringly to Austin.] Baby! [To Tamsin.] If I die, I have a sister somewhere, find her and give her this. [Hands a tattered edition of Knife Fighters' Quarterly to her.] She'll know what it means. [Stalks through the archway.]

Alice : I can't look! [Covers her eyes, but opens a crack between two fingers so she can peek out] [TAMSIN take the magazine and gives GENEVA a brief salute with it, before heading towards the arch.]

Aphi : Bzzt! [Everyone, especially GENEVA gives a startled jump, but she is clearly through the arch.]

Aphi : Haw! That never gets old!

Geneva: [Clearly shaken, to Alphi.] Did I ever tell you how unfunny your jokes are?

Austin : [Raises one eyebrow then casually throws the antipath amulet into the corner, and several others like it. To Geneva, chuckling] That was quite funny. [Tries to step through the arch to Geneva]

Aphi : [Grabs Geneva in a headlock and ruffles her hair] Haw! I don't care what Spruce said, you've got a great sense of humour!

Alice : [Holds up her antipath amulet] Are we going to leave all of these here? Or will we take one with us?

Austin : [Frowns, but produces one antipath amulet from his pocket] Like I said, keep one as a souvenir, perhaps. [Ponders the amulet] They could be handy for a disguise.

Alice : [Holds out her antipath amulet, and the original item] I wonder what would happen if we touched them? Last from Dom #90

Geneva: [Tautingly.] I got through with all of mine! [Produces her only one from her pocket.] I bet they'll make a fortune on the market!

Stephen : Hey! That's a really good question, Alice. Why don't you go out to Bumbleboring, and try it there? We'll all wait up the passage. [Everyone is now out in the next corridor.]

Aphi : [Draws his sword, and puts it to Stephen's neck] Why the hell don't you shut up? You whiny little snot? [STEPHEN makes a frightened squeak.]

Aphi : [Puts the sword away with a smile] Bam! I'm just joshing. Come on, Stevie, let's see what's up here.

Tamsin: [Snaps at Aphi] No more 'joshing' involving a sword. Got it?

Aphi : Man, you're a cranky old bitch, aren't you? [Smiles] Aw, I'm just funnin' Tam, it's just the excitement of being so close to the heart. I think you're great.

Alice : [Falls in behind Aphi] For someone who's supposed to be calm, you're not very calm, are you?

Aphi : [Proudly] The Uncalmest Man in Serenity is what they call me.

Bjorseth : [Under his breath] Yeah, to your face.

Austin : [Doing the calm down hand motion] Calm down can we? I'm sure that there will be plenty of opportunities to be uncalm later, if we don't all die arguing. [To APhi] So who is the calmest person in Serenity?

Tamsin: [Mischievously, to Aphi] What makes you so uncalm? Sexual frustration?

Aphi : That would be Marasmus, my good man. [Turns to Tamsin] It's actually you, Tam. I told you, I think you're [earnestly] really great. In fact, I think I want to marry you. [Drops down on one knee] What do you say? Would you, Tamsin, do me the honour of accepting my hand in marriage? What better place to do it than here, just as we find the Heart?

Alice : [Turns from the scene to look at Monty, like someone giving out in a cinema] Sh! We're watching this. There you go. [Absentmindedly tosses her one in front of Monty]

Tamsin : [Clearly not sure whether to believe him or not] Look, Aphi, this isn't really the time for this -

Aphi : [Interrupting] Haw! Just kidding, but you really are alright, Tam. Let's go! [The party form the order BJORSETH, MONTY, APHI, GENEVA in the front, ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, TAMSIN in the second row, and STEPHEN on his own at the back. All the antipath amulets are in a pile.]

Alice : I hope the next test is as easy as the last one!

Chastity : Or maybe us from getting out! [The passage curves to the right up ahead, and some deep guttural growling can be heard.]

Alice : [Rubs her stomach] Sorry, it's just with all this crazy time travel thing going on, I felt like I haven't eaten for ages! [More growling comes, this time from further up the tunnel.]

Tamsin: Sounds friendly. Hey, Austin, why don't you check it out?

Aphi : [Draws his sword] Whatever it is, it's coming this way!

Geneva: [Suppressing amusement.] Giant. Killer. Poodles. Sheesh that must have been frightening. [Her dagger is drawn.]

Alice : [Narrowing her eyes and speaking with surpising menace] It'd better not be any damned poodles. [By way of explanation] Angry puppy incident when I was a child. [Enter BALKLINE GROOT, a huge, twelve foot tall monster with flames coming out of its head. It pauses for a moment, before giving a terrifying roar.]

Alice : [Swallows hard] Er, I think we might be in trouble here.

Tamsin: [To Alice, but keeping her eyes fixed on the monster] Maybe it's only a test of courage. You know, 'successfully face down flaming death without soiling yourself.' [Glances nervously at Monty] Er, how we doin'? the "fabled Last from Heather #109

Geneva: Eeep! [Pulls herself together.] Aarrrgh. i've seen sea serpents bigger than that there! [She doesn't sound convincing.]

Balkline : [Roars again] No! I never bother remembering anyone, because I kill any one I meet!

Bjorseth : [To the party] None of the other tests of courage were of that form, they were all of the kill or be killed form. Better get your swords ready.

Geneva: [Holds her dagger in front of her, passing the blade from hand to hand, ready to launch into battle if necessary. To the others] Uh. Are these challenges mandatory?

Bjorseth : Not exactly, but they don't seem to be too picky about who they attack.

Chastity : [To Balkline] Step back you evil thing, we know all about you.

Balkline : You'll know all about me when I melt your skin! [Gives another huge roar, causing everyone to blanche at the heat]

Geneva: [Nervously out the side of her mouth.] You obviously know this thing,Chastity. Now, how do we beat it?

Chastity : On each of the last two occasions, we ran away.

Aphi : That's not an option, not when we're so close to the Heart. [Turns to the others] Let's charge him!

Alice : Well, okay, but he's already pretty angry. When he finds out he's going to have to pay, maybe he'll just get worse?

Geneva: Any other helpful suggestions? I dont think Peter is going to show up armed with a four leaf clover with which to beat this beast to death!

Tamsin: [Sighing] Well, all of the suggestions I've made today have knocked people flat on their backs. That said, let's just fight the damn thing. Big flaming death waits for no one, right? [Readies sword unenthusiastically]

Aphi : Ha! That's the spirit, Tamsin! [Charges at Balkline]

Balkline : [Turns his palms up, causing a massive fireball to hit Aphi, and momentarily engulf the first two rows] Idiot!

Stephen : [Slowly peeking up from behind his hands] Sniff sniff, what's that smell?

Tamsin: [Watches Aphi's failed charge in horror and yells to the party as she charges the beast] Little help, anyone?

Stephen : It's a bit, it's a bit like barbeque!

Bjorseth : [Charging at Balkline] Get in close to him, don't let him make any more of those fireballs! [Swings and hits] [Each of MONTY and GENEVA get an attack in, while ALICE and TAMSIN get up close, and will attack next round. Meanwhile, CHASTITY kneels beside APHI and mutters a prayer, as AUSTIN fires his sling at BALKLINE. Both MONTY and GENEVA hit him, but their swords just bounce off, as does one of AUSTIN's stones.]

Alice : Oh no! How are we supposed to hurt him?

Stephen : I don't know, call him names perhaps? Shatter his ego?

Tamsin: Maybe we don't kill him. Maybe we just disable him? [Tries to stab at his eyes when she gets close enough to attack]

Alice : [Glares at Stephen] Maybe we could disable him enough to give us time to kill Stephen? [Everyone attacks again, with each of ALICE, TAMSIN, MONTY and BJORSETH hitting him, but again doing no damage.]

Balkline : [Laughing, as he knocks Geneva to the ground] This is too easy!

Stephen : [To Balkline] You have some serious anger issues, mister! Let me guess, a tiny manhood?

Balkline : [Gives another roar, before picking up Stephen and speaking in a surprisingly calm tone] No, I believe that you are merely projecting your own inadequacies on to me. You sir, are probably the type who suggests that men who drive convertible sports carriages are also challenged in that fashion. [Gives another roar as he throws the now burning Stephen at Monty, knocking them both to the ground]

Alice : [To Bjorseth] Come on, Bjor! There must be some way to harm him! Didn't you find anything along the way?

Bjorseth : No, anything we found we ended up using, well, except the item Tamsin and Geneva brought with them.

Austin : [To Alice] Hit him with the relic! [To Chastity] Can you summon a rainstorm or something?

Chastity : No! Phili's powers aren't working, I can't even cure Aphi! Something's very, very wrong here.

Alice : I got him! [Holds the item by the round part, and victoriously jams the point into Balkline.] [The overall effect is that BALKLINE becomes even more enraged, and slaps ALICE so hard she slides down the corridor and nearly knocks over AUSTIN, and the item slides between his legs, warming, but not harming him.]

Alice : Ow.

Austin : [Appealing to Balkline] Hey! Can we just clam down here please! We haven't yet established why you want to kill us, or, for that matter, why we should want to kill you? [Pauses momentarily] There may be something that we can do for you, somekind of favour, or perhaps [Shrug] a game of cards or something, we have a fresh pack! What's your favorite game?

Tamsin: [Watches this interaction hopefully as she tries to sidle past Balkine up the tunnel]

Balkline : I'm prepared to take that chance! [Steps forward and knocks Monty to the ground] [As TAMSIN slips passed BALKLINE, GENEVA starts to regain consciousness.]

Alice : [Still on the ground] If the relic doesn't work, what else can we use? Last from Alfred #131

Geneva: [Moaning.] Mum! I hurt. [Slowly snaps awake, and eventually carefully sits up, feeling her arms and legs to see if anything's broken.] Eh! What's going on here then? [Casts about for her dagger.]

Geneva: [Now staggering to her feet, retrieving her dagger.] What are you going to do, Monty, talk his ear off?

Alice : Yeah, Monty's going to cough him to death!

Tamsin : [Coming back from disappearing up behind Balkline] It's a dead end up ahead!

Balkline : [Turns to one side and strikes Tamsin, knocking her to the ground and causing her to slide back out of sight] Nowhere to run! Last from Conor #133

Geneva: [Desperately.] Ok, plan B. [Looks around.] Um... what was plan B?

Bjorseth : How about using the other amulets?

Geneva: Ahhh. [Reaches into her pocket and pulls hers out.] Here is mine. [Throws her hand out dramatically at the beast, with the amulet still in it.] Take THAT!

Balkline : Okay. [Grabs it off her and eats it] Mm-mm! Tasty!

Geneva: Hey! That was mine! YOU were supposed to fall over dead or be as tame as kitten!

Balkline : Is that a fact? You'd be surprised at how angry kittens can get. [Roars with laughter, clearly having a great time, before pointing at Bjorseth] Calm, huh? How's that working out for you?

Bjorseth : [Gives a scream of rage and leaps onto Balkline and starts choking him with his bare hands] Aaaaaargh! [BALKLINE falls back onto the ground and, although, he hasn't taken any visible damage, he is clearly in difficulty, and begins thrashing around, as the fire in his eyes begins to dim, but only slightly.]

Alice : Yay! You got him Bjor!

Austin : [Shouting to Tamsin] Throw the cards at him! [Ducks behind Chastity]

Tamsin : You got it! [Throws the cards at Balkline] [The cards spread around, with most hitting BALKLINE, although none catching fire. They don't appear to hurt him, although one particularly sharp corner catches BJORSETH just above the left eyebrow.]

Bjorseth : Ow! [Regains his focus as his face becomes contorted with rage as he starts to bang Balkline's head against the ground] I'm going to fucking kill you. [BALKLINE is clearly in difficulty, but it is obvious that BJORSETH can't hold on much longer.]

Alice : [Picks up the relic and wails at the others] What else can we do? Bjor can't hold him forever!

Austin : [Shouts] Help Bj! [Sighs, runs over and tries to help Bjorseth keep Balkline down]

Geneva: [To Alice.] You're the neutral one! The heart hurt us, but not you or [Indicating Alphi & Bjor] them, use the power of the platforms, and jump on him! [turns around to look at Tamsin.] Just as soon as Stretch is alright! [Runs to check Tamsin, who's unconscious, but not too badly hurt] [Each of AUSTIN and MONTY try to help pin down BALKLINE, but BJORSETH has to let go, and BALKLINE knocks them away.]

Balkline : [With a big smile as he sees Bjorseth lying on the floor, exhausted] Excellent. Now it's time to finish you off. Unless there are any questions?

Alice : I have a question. [Holds up the relic and one of the antipath amulets] What happens if I touch these together?

Balkline : [Smile flickers for a second, but comes back] Then we all die. Last from Conor #144

Geneva: Could an amulet possibly fit into the key somehow?

Chastity : I thought you were going to kill us all anyway?

Balkline : Kill? Oh, no, I was just joking. If you just turn around and head back the way you came, and leave the key here, we'll say no more about it.

Alice : [To the others] What do you say? [Holds the two items very close, causing Balkline to step back] Will I do it?

Austin : [To Alice] Yes do it! Before he gets his hands on it!

Balkline : [Runs towards Alice] Noooo! [ALICE touches the two together, and everyone is enveloped in a blinding white light, and knocked to the ground by some invisible force. When it clears, BALKLINE has disappeared, as has the wall at the far (near TAMSIN) end of the tunnel, leading to the tunnel continuing.]

Alice : [Sitting up, blinking] Did it work?

Austin : [Getting up and dusting himself down, straightening his clothes out and then using one of those sticky roler thingies to remove fluff. To Alice] Yes, it appears to have worked reather well. Good wqork private Short, the Colonel would be most proud of you. [Nods in statisfaction, then frowns] I don't suppose there will be a dry cleaners down here.

Alice : [Smiles] I think I'd be at least a Captain, Private Sleaze! How's Aphi?

Bjorseth : [Clearly badly hurt himself] He's in trouble.

Austin : [To Chastity] Do we have any healing potions left? I think Aphi is a bit worse than the rest of us. [Goes over to look at Aphi]

Chastity : Just one. [Gives him a drink of it.] [APHI's wounds clear a little, but he is definitely very badly hurt.]

Aphi : [Sits up] Hey guys, what's all the worried looks for? I feel fine! [Looks a little sick] Actually, just kidding, I think I'm dying. [Spits up some blood onto the ground beside him]

Geneva: [To Bjor.] Don't you calm guys from Serenity have any healing tricks? [Looks to the others.] Does anyone have anything that could help?

Chastity : I'll try, Mr. Giles. [Mutters a prayer, but nothing happens, and she shakes her head] I don't know, maybe there's something preventing Phili's power from helping Aphi. I fear this Heart must be terribly, terribly evil.

Bjorseth : The trick used by the people of Serenity is to normally avoid violent situations. Unfortunately, it has not served us well today. [To Monty] You are correct, my friend. No one will be left behind. [Holds out his hands, palms up, showing that they are badly burnt] Who will carry him?

Geneva: I will assist you if you need it. Let me know if he get's heavy. [Pads down the deadend passageway with dagger drawn looking for clues, or a secret passage.]

Tamsin : [To Monty] I'll help. [TAMSIN and MONTY carry APHI between them. The newly opened passageway opens into another large chamber. In the middle is a large cauldron, about three feet high. It isn't possible to see what's in it from twere the party are, but there is a luminous green glow coming from it.]

Chastity : Get ready everyone, this could be the last test.

Geneva: [Stalking cautiously ahead, trying to see what is emitting the glow.] Any suggestions about what this is, anyone?

Bjorseth : I'll look. [Takes a step forward, so his face is lit up by the glow, before giving a big smile] It's the Heart.

Austin : [Indignantly to Monty] Of course I still have a functional mirror [Gets it out of his pocket] Momas Teddyson designs all of his pocket travel mirrors using Tritanium and Chromiumeon, it's almost indestructible. [Checks his mirror to see that it's okay, then checks his hair and the truly amazing peraly white shine of his teeth, grins devilishly and put the mirror away]. So, about this Heart thingy, why green? [Ponders the surroundings and the Heart]. It's does'nt fit well with the rest of the room.

Alice : [Steps up beside Bjorseth, and a look of wonder comes over her face] What? How is that even possible?

Stephen : [Looks sadly at his burnt suit and gasps as he feels his singed eyebrows] Oh God, now they'll grow back all thick and curly, like one of those horrid Gallagggeher brothers from Oldases! [Looks at the glow] If the heart is the heart of a volcano, how come it's green and not red?

Aphi : Because it's not the heart of a volcano.

Austin : [Gasps. To Stephen] Indeed Stevie old fellow, that has to be the one sensible question you have ever asked. [Carefully approaches the Heart to get a better look] Is this perhaps some kind of uber primeordial nascency fluid? [Slowly, everyone approaches so that they are gathered around the cauldron, which seems to be enormously deep, far deeper than seems possible. It is full of what is either swirling steam or liquid, which varies from a very bright and light green, to a very dark green, which is the same colour as the elves Nascency Fluid. Right in the centre, apprantly miles down is a tiny black shape, which is the same shape as the relic, antipath and the heart as seen in the dreams. There is no heat coming from it.]

Alice : So what is it?

Aphi : [With a huge smile, matched only by Bjorseth's] It's everything!

Stephen : Well I have another, what is the point of Austin Sleaze?

Stephen : [Looking into the cauldron] What do you mean it's everything? And how do we place the key inside?

Alice : I'll try. [Lifts the key over the cauldron, trying to align it with the black shape, but almost immediately pulls her hand back] Ow! Now [emphasis] that's what I call hot.

Bjorseth : [Clearly tingling with nervous excitement] It is everything! This, my friends, is the secret of life. All paths lead to the heart. [Frowns at Alice's reaction] That doesn't seem right. [Reaches over himself] Ow! [Turns with a panicked look to Aphi] I can't touch it either!

Stephen : Maybe it's part of the test? We have to figure out a way of inserting the key? Either that or things here are terribly, terribly wrong!

Austin : [Nodding] We may have to do it in a specific order, or perhaps we all have to hold it at the same time. [Tentatively tries to touch the Heart to see if it is hot still] [ALICE holds the relic towards AUSTIN, who quickly pulls his hand back.]

Tamsin : [Worriedly] Whatever we're going to do, we better to it fast, Aphi's lost consciousness.

Bjorseth : [Shaking with a mixture of fear and anger] It can't end like this. [Sticks his left arm into the cauldron, up to the elbow. It is still visible, but hazy from the light] Aieee! Get me out! [He is clearly being sucked into it]

Austin : [Quickly] Let's all go in, everyone! There is no other way to save Aphi! [Removes Maplin's glove and thrusts him into the cauldron] [AUSTIN only gets a tiny bit of MAPLIN in, before involuntarily pulling it back out, screaming in pain. When he does, the tip of his little finger is missing. Meanwhile TAMSIN, MONTY and GENEVA grab BJORSETH and start pulling him back.]

Alice : [Also grabs him] Come on, Bjor! Austin, are you okay?

Austin : [Reeling in pain] Bastardfuck! [Breaths rapidly and deeply] Bastard! [Kicks the cauldron violently. Calms down. Looks at Aphi] Hold on there fella. [Carefully puts his glove back on, the bone in his pinky finger clearly visible]

Alice : [Eyes opening wide in shock at Monty's words] I think, Monty, that what you mean to say is "I hope that doesn't hurt too much". Bjor, are you okay?

Bjorseth : [Breathing heavily, hunched over with his back to the party] I feel strangely calm. [Slowly turns around, to reveal that half his left arm, from elbow to finger tips is missing, with just the bones remaining]

Geneva: [Eyes boggling.] Oh. My. God. It's quite clear that we can't enter the cauldron without being skinned and gutted. What next? The antipath amulets served their purpose by killing the beast, the key served it's purpose in that too... But we've not used the cards for anything! Perhaps now is the time to use them. neither [MONTY pulls it back out, to reveal that the corner that had been dipped in has completel disappeared.]

Aphi : I have an idea - cough, cough [dies]

Geneva: [Stricken.] Oh no! [To the others.] A lot of people do seem to die around you! [Looks to Borj to gauge how he's taking Alphi's death.] He lived his life...calmly, Borj.

Austin : [Calms down, the pain easing slightly. To Monty] I was trying to do something to save Aphi's life, you numbskull [Goes over to Aphi and covers Aphi's head with a spare Chucklsey Wang designer silk shirt in blue, with opal buttons. Sighs]

Bjorseth : [To Geneva] A lot of fucking good it did him. [Sees Austin about to cover Aphi, and shouts, with the most intimidating shout anyone has ever heard before] Leave it! [AUSTIN stops, and gracefully moves back, as BJORSETH puts his hand on APHI's chest. Meanwhile, the blue lightning from before begins to crackle around the room.]

Alice : Oh no, don't tell me we're going to disappear again just before we see what happens in the end!

Tamsin: [Watching Bjorseth helplessly, distraught over Aphi's untimely demise] Can I do anything to help you?

Austin : [Moves carefully away from Bjorseth, puts the shirt back into his bag and then has a search around the room. Trying to avoid the lightening] Who's got the cards?

Tamsin: [Fumbles through her knapsack, looking for the cards] I might have some of them. . . .

Geneva : They're back down the corridor, I tried throwing them at that monster thing. [As the lightning gets louder, BJORSETH's skeletal hand disappears into APHI's chest, up to the elbow. APHI's body immediately begins convulsing.]

Alice : [Ducking down to try and avoid the lightning] Bjor! What the hell is happening?

Austin : [Looking astounded at the Bjorseth Aphi scene] I think he's trying to ressurect Aphi or something. [APHI shudders another few times, before his eyes snap open, and BJORSETH pulls his (still skeletal) hand back out.]

Aphi : [Looks around at all the shocked faces, before wiping some blood from his face] What's with all the long faces? Who died? [The lightning crashes heavily around the room, clearly touching the party but not harming them.]

Bjorseth : Alice! Will I see you again?

Alice : [As the party disappear] Yes, backstage. [The party are gone.]

Aphi : What the hell does that mean?

Bjorseth : I don't know but [glances at the cured wounds of Aphi, and then at his own hand] I think I'm going to go masturbate.

Aphi : Good idea, then I think I'm going smoke some of that cheese Austin left. Things are going to change around here, my friend! [Book III, Act V, Scene XIII. A Wooded Glade. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, GENEVA, MONTY, TAMSIN and STEPHEN are here, having just appeared. It is the middle of the afternoon, but the sky is very dark (as it has been all over the realms since the war started). The area doesn't look familiar, but the party are on the edge of a town, the name of which, according to a nearby sign, is Cachexia.]

Stephen : [To Alice] Backstage?

Alice : [Shrugs] Not sure what it means either, I just got a really strong feeling that we're going to meet them again, and that there'll be some kind of stage involved.

Geneva : [Raising an eyebrow] Do you get these, er, feelings often?

Alice : From time to time. Usually it's like a flash of something that will happen, but without enough information to do anything about it.

Austin : [Checking his suit for static fluff left over from the lightening] It has been helpful sometimes though. However, it's so sporadic it's difficult to see how it is of any great utility. [Pauses] Anyway, we're here at last, Cachexia. Look out for screamers [Looks around]

Tamsin: [Angrily] All right--what the HELL is going on??? I'm getting pretty sick of getting jerked around!

Chastity : Easy, child. We don't know what's going on either, but [points at the town] that's Cachexia. Whatever's been causing all our time travel adventures lies in there.

Alice : So, Austin, how's your, um, ankle?

Stephen : His ankle? Forget that! Ask him about his finger!

Alice : I was going to! I just wanted to work up to it! [Turns to Austin] Well? How is it?

Tamsin: [Calming down, embarrassed at her outburst] Sorry, Chur--uh, Chastity. [Looks at the town expectantly] What are we looking for? Last from Hesther #5

Austin : [To Tamsin] Shh! If you want to look for something keep your eyes peeled for screamers. [Takes his glove off ans shows his finger to Alice] There.

Chastity : An answer to why I'm apparantly needed in Cachexia. [Turns and faces the opposite way and looks out into the distance] We're a long way from the North, I wonder what happened to Peter and Ivan.

Alice : [Gets the shivers as she looks at Austin's bony finger] Eauh! [Composes herself] I mean - well, that's not so bad. Does it hurt?

Stephen : So, are we going to go in there or just sneak off? Pretend it never happened. A bad dream? Some gone off cheese before bed time perhaps?

Geneva : [To Stephen] No! We're going to find out what the hell has been dragging us all over the place. [Enter SCARTHUR ARGYLE, popping up from behind a bush.]

Scarthur : More northerners! [Points at the party] It is time we stood up and were counted, the people will not stand for any more of this, it is time to let them know that they are not welcome here.

Austin : [Spins round quickly to face Scarthur, putting his glove back on. To Scarthur] Let whom know that whom are not welcome?

Stephen : [A bit taken aback] Does he mean us not being welcome here, or being northerners, others aren't welcome here?

Alice : [To Stephen] What?

Scarthur : Let [points at Austin] you know that you are not welcome. [At least thirty other people appear from behind various bushes, all but one armed with a bow and arrow. The unarmed one, CHIM, produces his after a definite zipping sound.]

Scarthur : We will drive you and your ilk from our homes.

Tamsin: [To Scarthur] Hey, now, we're not here to make trouble.

Stephen : [To Scarthur] I'll have you know that I've never been near one of your flea infested hovels that you call homes! How dare you!

Scarthur : How dare you threaten me! [The armed men surrounding the party all shout angrily.]

Scarthur : Give us one reason why we shouldn't kill you.

Alice : [Quietly to the others] Gah! We hardly know her! How are we supposed to know?

Tamsin: [Shoots Alice a dirty look and then says to Scarthur] Well, you must be protector-types, right? Keeping homes safe and all that? That's us, too. We're heroes. We go around saving people. Free of charge. [Nods proudly]

Austin : [To Scathur] You should not kill us as you have nothing to gain by such an action. [Pauses] As far as we know we have one common enemy, the Bringer. [CHIM shoots an arrow at STEPHEN, hitting him in the shoulder and knocking him to the ground. He gives a cry of pain, and falls unconscious.]

Chim : [To Scarthur] Sorry, but no one insults our hovels.

Scarthur : [Holds up his hand, clearly telling his men to halt] The Bringer? How do we know you Northern devils aren't in league with him? [CHASTITY bends down and starts to tend to STEPHEN's wounds.]

Alice : Er, because if we were, we'd be wearing scary masks and would almost certainly have killed you by now?

Scarthur : Looks like you're wearing a scary mask to me! [He and his men roar with laughter at this.]

Alice : [Laughs along for a moment, before realising what he meant, as a look of dismay comes over her] Hey!

Geneva: [Stifling a chuckle.] These guys could be alright! At least they seem to have senses of humours. [Her hand does not go to the dagger at her belt, but remains ready to draw her dagger if neccessary. To Scather.] I mean, have you *seen* screamers? [Casts an eye over the party, herself included.] They're not nearly so hodge-podge as us.

Scarthur : I've seen Screamers, and I've seen Northerners, enough to know that you smell even worse than most.

Geneva: Aarrrggh! That's untrue! [Considers.] Besides. Why would anyone, whos seen better days such as us, launch an attack in this condition?

Scarthur : [Momentarily pauses to remove his Anti-Bringer badge] We have never heard of this [deliberately mispronounces the "ger" part*] Brin-ger of which you speak. [To the crowd] See how they try to confuse us? Ready, aim - [Enter THATCH MARGER, a well dressed middle aged woman, who speaks with such an upper class accent that she would even put ALICE's mother to shame.]

Thatch : [Speaking quite slowly, and over emphasising about every third word] Mister Argyle, please compose yourself. We must give these people a chance. [To Monty] Now, sir, we are of course delighted that you and your people have come here on what is [even more emphasis] clearly a diplomatic mission, but I am sure that you understand the need for you to prove to the [wrinkles her face in distaste] militant Mr. Argyle that you are not in league with the [most emphasis of all] Bringer. Is there anything you can show us to back up your story?

Geneva: [Mischeviously.] Show 'em your knickers, Tam.

Tamsin : Nah, I think that'd be Alice's trick.

Chastity : [Standing up from Stephen] Miss Thatch, we - [As one, the watching crowd gasp as they see CHASTITY. Even the apparantly unflappable THATCH is clearly shocked.]

Chim : It's her! [The soldiers all put down their weapons and start hugging and high fiving each other.]

Geneva: [To Chastity.] Ahhh it's just like highschool!

Alice : [Watching two soldiers hugging each other and in tears of joy] What kind of school did you go to, Gen?

Geneva: A school that [emphasised.] encouraged you to share your feelings, Alice. What was your school sport? Backstroke?

Chastity : [Looking at the hugging men] It looks more like the school Stephen went to. Or at least dreamed of attending. [To Thatch] Were you expecting me? Who do you think I am?

Alice : [To Geneva] Sometimes, but occasionally the heated pool would break down, usually when the poor people that were employed to power the generator with bicycles stopped working, you know, [dismissive wave of the hand] when they were sick or starving or what have you.

Thatch : [Clearly as taken aback at the others, but trying not to seem over awed] You, my lady, are the queen! [The men all break into loud cheers].

Thatch : [Gesturing to Monty] Your manservant is quite right. If you would like, we, I mean, I can bring you to our leader.

Scarthur : [Elbowing his way to the front, and bowing ostentatiously in front of the party] Your majesty, may I apologise for my terrible behaviour? [Points at Chim (who shot Stephen)] That man will be flogged!

Alice : [Glances at Chim] I doubt they'll get much for him.

Chastity : [To Scarthur] That won't be necessary, it was an honest mistake, but this man must receive the immediate medical attention he requires. [To Thatch] Yes, a meeting with your leader and ourselves would indeed be a good idea.

Geneva: [Gravely, listening intently to Chastity's speech.] Amen.

Austin : [To Thatch] Yes, could you see that her majesty's court jester recieves medical attention [Gestures towards Stephen] We appologise for his rudness, but that is his purpose, I doubt there is anything else he can do.

Thatch : Of course, my queen, of course. You and your followers are more than welcome. [Unbearably smugly to Austin] My dear fellow, there is absolutely no need to apologise, it is us who have caused offence.

Tamsin : [To Monty] I'll help you. [The party head towards the town, surrounded by the soldiers, who keep a respectful distance. HATCH seems to be in charge, but SCARTHUR clearly wants to be in on the act too, and these two are the closest to CHASTITY, still a good few feet away. As the party enter the town, it is clear that the people have been waiting a long time for this. There are (drawn) pictures of CHASTITY everywhere, some twenty and thirty feet high, all showing her dressed in long flowing robes, and usually with a benign smile on her face. As the townspeople see what's happening, they either drop to their knees, faint or run indoors.]

Alice : [To the others] You know, she's going to be completely unbearable after this.

Chastity : [Smiling and doing the royal wave to the crowds, to Alice] I do not know quite what you mean. [Pauses to accept a bouquet of flowers from a small girl, with the message "We all love you" attached.] It's just as well my sense of modesty is so well developed. [Continues down the road, waving regally]

Geneva: [Swivelling around to face Scarther, gesturing to Chastity.] Why do you like [emphasis.] her so much? Why all these pictures of Chas.. err her?

Scarthur : [As the small girls runs back to her mother, beaming with pride] Because she is the Queen, who has come to save us from evil.

Alice : [Glancing up at a huge picture of Chastity wearing a mortar board, which is outside a school] You mean, like the evil of torture? [Points off to one side, where Ivan is hanging by his wrists from a pole. He has been beaten badly, and seems barely conscious]

Thatch : Oh, that's okay, he's a Northern spy. [Thinks a moment] Oh, and you, my Queen, have a northern accent, as do your followers.

Chastity : [Looking over at Ivan] Ivan! [To Thatch] That man is no spy. He was meant to see if the Bringer was here, before I could come into the city. What did he do to deserve such treatment?

Thatch : [For once, without an answer] He, well, er, we thought he was a spy.

Scarthur : [Stepping in front of Thatch] Oh, my Queen, he was beaten because of his accent! [To the crowd] The time has come to stop this jingoistic attitude! [Pounds his fist into his hand as he makes his points] Does the Queen herself not speak with their accent? Does she not show us by her very actions that it is wrong to hate the northerners? See how she surrounds herself with them?

Thatch : [Lowly to Scarthur] You bastard, you hated Northerners much more than I did.

Scarthur : Maybe, but I love the Queen much more!

Chastity : [To Thatch] Have that man cut down, and his injuries seen to. We will need to speak with him. [To Scarthur] I believe that there has been some evil manipulation of the populations of the South and the North. Someone or something has been feeding each side lies and rumours to promote hatred, bloodshed and war.

Thatch : [Hits Scarthur on the arm] That's what I said! [To the party, back to her super calm voice] We constantly strove for a better understanding between two diverse, but equally passionate groups. [IVAN is immediately cut down, and carted off to a large white building that has a picture of CHASTITY dressed as a nurse, cradling a small baby.]

Scarthur : You liar! [A look of shock comes over his face] Er, I suppose the other one shouldn't be tortured either, should he?

Chastity : [Turning quickly to Scarthur] The other one? [Catching herself, returning to an authoritative but regal tone] Yes, now show us. He had been not be in a similar state as the other man. How many people have you mistreated in this manner?

Thatch : The issue here now is not one of simple accounting, rather we must look to the future, to build on the foundations that we have.

Scarthur : [Guiding the party to what is clearly a prison, and which has the only non smiling picture of Chastity the party have seen so far. In this she has a stern look, and is wagging a stern finger] The other one is in here, but, my queen, our best torturer has been working on him for hours, it will not be a pretty sight.

Austin : [Clearly quite enjoying Chasatity's 'promotion'. To Chastity] Your majesty, I believe that the north and the south have both been equally duped into hating one another, and the north like the south has also tortured the wrong people, just as poor Ivan here has been tortured. This would be a most appropriate time to invoke your plan and set the records straight, to unite North and South against the Bringer. [Clasps his hands in a courtly advisor kind of way]

Scarthur : [Opening the door of the jail] This is where we - where they brought the other prisoner. You'd better prepare yourself for some terrible sounds of pain and screaming. [Everyone goes quiet for a moment, and can hear the sound of someone roaring laughing from behind another door.]

Alice : [Wide eyed] What are they doing to him?

Chastity : [Looking not too amused by Austin's amusement] I don't think that a prison is quite the place for delicate political negotiation. We'll have to wait to meet the current leader. [To Scarthur] Is that the torturer? I'm all for people enjoying their work, but there is a limit.

Stephen : [Rubbing his shoulder] Perhaps, your majesty, you should have this sort of behaviour outlawed? And perhaps also decree to have your supporters not wound and maim us?

Austin : [Sighs] Well, let's see who it is and let her majesty decided what to do, then we can go and meet the leader without further delay.

Chastity : [With obvious delight] Peter! You're alive! Again! [To Scarthur] This is one of my most important subjects. He is here to negotiate with your leader. [To Peter] Did you see the pictures outside? Heart-warming, isn't it.

Scarthur : I've - I've never heard anthing like it before! [Slowly pushes open the door] [PETER DEADPAN is here, sitting (but not tied to) a chair that's clearly meant for prisoners. Also here are BARNEY and two guards, all three of whom are bent over double with laughter. BARNEY, in particular, is inconsolable, and has tears in his eyes. All three try to calm down when they see the door open. BARNEY is about seven feet tall and has metal teeth.]

Barney : Excuse me, Mr. Argyle, we were just - just [bursts out laughing again] I'm sorry, it's just this guy, [clamps a huge hand on Peter's knee, clearly causing him some discomfort] this guy is the funniest person I've ever met.

Peter : They made me want to puke. [BARNEY and friends roar with laughter as though this was the funniest thing they ever heard.]

Barney : Please, can we keep him here for a while? [To Peter] You'd like to stay with us for a while, wouldn't you? Have a chat?

Peter : [Big sigh] If I have to stay here, I'd rather be tortured than have to listen to you.

Tamsin : [To Geneva, as the Barney and the others shriek with laughter again] What is it with this guy?

Stephen : Oh, it's Peter! They're torturing Peter!

Alice : Yeah, Stephen, they seem to be right vicious.

Barney : Stephen? You're Stephen? [Roars with laughter again, but suddenly notices Chastity] Oh. Oh! The Queen! [Bows down low]

Peter : [Dryly] Apparantly you're a religious icon.

Stephen : [Mortally offended. To Barney] What on earth do you mean by that? What do you mean by You're Stephen? [Hands on hips]

Chastity : [To Peter] At least an icon of some sort, being Queen. What happened to your negotiating skills?

Austin : [Cackling quietly at Peter. Smirking, to Barney] Well, her majesty would like Peter to acompany us to see your leader, I'm sure Peter wouldn't mind popping back later for a chat [Wiggles his eyebrows at Peter. Turns to Scarthur] What a guy! [Shakes his head smiling in disbelief]

Barney : [Trying not to laugh, but Stephen's pose sets him off again] There! Look! He's doing it!

Scarthur : Stop that immediately! Wait until Shay hears about this! [To one of the guards] Where is Shay? The Queen wants to meet him.

Barney : Er, he went to make a sandwich for Peter.

Chastity : [To Scarthur] Who is Shay? If you say I want to meet him, is he your leader? [To Peter] In which case, I take it back, Peter, your negotiating skills are indeed mighty.

Stephen : [Self consciously drops his hands to his sides but remains fuming] No doubt a poisoned sandwich! Or a sandwich filled with truth serum! Or, or, peanut butter! [Shudders]

Scarthur : [Gesturing to Shay] Yes, he's our leader. Shay -

Shay : [Glares at Scarthur] Shut up! Can't you see Peter is about to eat his sandwich? [SHAY waits, clearly nervous, while PETER picks up the sandwich and gives it a dirty look.]

Shay : [Glancing at Chastity] I hope he likes it. [Looks away again, but does a double take] Huh! The Queen! [Big smile] You're the Queen!

Stephen : God, all this reminds me of my school days! [To Chastity] Although they seem to be a bit more benevolent to you than my school mates were!

Chastity : [To Shay] So I understand. Quite an overwhelming greeting your town puts on. We are here to talk about defeating a dastardly evil that has being playing the north and south against each other. Hopefully we can bring about peace between the two sides. [Gestures towards Peter] I see you have already met Peter, the chief negotiator

Alice : True, but she's probably less effeminate than you.

Shay : [Gobsmacked] The Queen, here! We're really glad to see you.

Shay : [Big, wry smile] I sure have. He's one fussy guy when it comes to sandwiches! [More seriously] Overwhelming? We've been waiting for you for years, my Queen, for generations! [Pats his jacket] In fact, as mayor of Cachexia, I am the one entrusted with your relic. One of the sacred relics that unite our people. [Starts to tear up a little] I never dared to hope that I would be the one to hand it over to you.

Chastity : [Puts a supportive hand on Shays shoulder] I am touched that you have done this. Where is the relic, may I ask?

Shay : [Pats his jacket] In here. I never leave it out of my possession.

Peter : They deserted me just when I needed them most.

Scarthur : [Clearly shocked] Huh? But, Shay is our leader! A merciless slayer of Northeners! [Enter SHAY O'VARA, a man in his forties in military dress. When he enters, all the Southerners salute. He is carrying a sandwich.]

Shay : Hi Peter, I put less mustard on this one, I hope it's okay.

Austin : [Excited and very inquisitive, with a glint of gold in his eyes] Oooh! Can we have peek at it please.

Shay : [As all the party lean in to get a closer look] Of course. [Reaches into his pocket and takes out a card, which he holds out in front of the party] Magnificent, isn't it? [It is another card from The Deck, "The Queen of Pentacles", and contains what is definitely CHASTITY's face. The symbol on her lap is the holy symbol of PHILI, which has been used by the party each time they resurrected someone from the soul sanctuaries.]

Alice : [Thoughtfully] So it's not just dead people on the cards.

Monty : Ahem. This is most surprising. We had been lead to believe that the people of the South were devil worshippers.

Shay : Oh no, we believe in Phili, just like you. The only difference is that we know about some of the others, too.

Geneva: But all of the people on the cards have been changed somehow - from alive to dead, [Indicates Chastity.] From Nun to Queen. Is it something to do with the way we, or others perceive them?

Tamsin : But how does someone go from being a nun to a queen? [Fixes a look on Shay] The others?

Shay : [With an understanding smile] Ah, we look upon things differently down here. You northerners normally claim that Phili is the one true god. Of course, you [meaning the party in general] obviously know this isn't the case, what with being with the Queen and all.

Geneva: We can see pictures of [smirking slightly] the Queen everywhere. Do you have any other pictures of the others that you worship?

Shay : Not on me, but there are several others, the Magician, the Priestess, the Empress and [somewhat hopefully] the Emperor?

Alice : The Emperor? [To the others] Well, that's Harvey, isn't it? [To Shay] How come there are only pictures of Cha - of the Queen up?

Shay : Certain towns are dedicated to certain travellers, why, we have such a long association with the Queen, we're often known as Queenstown.

Alice : [To Stephen] Easy, big fella, that's not what he means.

Geneva: [Hiding a laugh at Alice's comment.] Alice! That was funny! [To Shay.] What kind of names do the other towns have?

Alice : [To Geneva] Sometimes we need to keep him calm!

Shay : Official names? Well, I guess they're no different from up north, there are places like Apoplexia, Hypoxia, Rhexia, that kind of thing.

Chastity : [To the party] The fortune teller I met in the future said that we would need the help of the Emperor. [To Shay] Do the other towns still have their holy relics. I presume they are similar cards.

Shay : Unfortunately not, some were stolen, and the rest brought to a place where we knew you'd come.

Chastity : [To the group, gesturing to the card] This Queen card is interesting. No one is more welcoming and nurturing than the Queen. Her greatest pleasure is to care for others - making sure they are happy and secure. She is warm and generous to all, sensible and practical. If something needs doing, she just takes care of it without a lot of fuss and bother, makes do with little and always comes through in a pinch. Because she is trusting by nature, down-to-earth, matter-of-factness, loyal and steadfast others trust her completely. The card prompts you do feel and act as the queen does, that is to be warm, generous, caring and true to your word. I don't think another card has fitted so well. [Blushes slightly] It's almost embarrassing to see it put down on paper if it just wasn't so apt.

Chastity : [To Alice] Well that's taken as read. [To Shay] We have come similar cards to this on our travels down the path to here. Which town is the emperor associated with?

Alice : [Dryly] Don't forget the part about modesty and humility.

Shay : We have the other cards, except for the ones that were stolen. They'd be the Priestess, the Hierophant and the Sun. I can show you the others if you like. [To Chastity] It's not so much that the Emperor is associated with a town, rather the town is associated with it. That's Apoplexia. [Smiles] You know, I thought you'd know all this stuff already. [Face drops] But it's a test, right? How well am I doing?

Alice : Not so well in the cheese and brandy serving portion.

Geneva: [Quietly, to the others.] I wonder why everyone else but the Queen here, seems to symbolise something from the major deck of cards, while, Cha... her Highness is from the minor deck?

Chastity : [To Alice] On the contrary, the lack of those substances means they are passing with flying colours. [To Geneva] Modesty no doubt, my dear.

Geneva: [Nods.] Possible. [Quietly.] Or maybe you need to be dead, to be on the major cards. Maybe it's a close-to-death thing. The closer you are to meeting you maker, the higher on the cards you are. [To Shay.] Have you seen any of the other people on cards pass through? Recently?

Shay : We've never seen any! I know that in whatever fantastical world you acolytes of the Queen inhabit it might be common to meet up with travellers, but today is a magnificent day for us.

Austin : [Tenting his fingers, still wearing a glove over Maplin] There is no proof, Geneva, that the Deck is simply another pack of tarot cards, so it may not be safe to project one's knowledge of the apparant contemporary equivalents until we have more information.

Geneva: [Chastened.] Merely pontificating, old chap.

Geneva: [Pokes her tongue out at Austin when she thinks he's not looking.] And were the rest of us meant to come along too? Or did we just get lucky?

Chastity : Or more to the point, you have been responsible for sending me messages to come here. How?

Shay : [To Geneva] Yes, but we expected her acolytes and close apostles to accompany her. [Pauses a moment at the huge sigh and tutting from Alice, who sulkily folds her arms] The boffins told us this would probably happen. I can't remember the term they used, but it was something like advocates, or adherants.

Thatch : I thought it was parasites?

Scarthur : Sycophants?

Barney : Lackeys?

Chim : Flunkies?

Shay : [Does a "calm down" gesture to the others] I'm not sure, my Queen. Our top wizards were visited by mysterious stranger who told us that if they could contact you, you would come. They created an artifact which is in our town centre, and it was supposed to bring you straight here, unfortunately, something or someone interfered, so even once we had located you, it took a while.

Austin : [Scolding] Tut tut! I believe we already have [points at Chastity] someone to do that.

Tamsin : [To Shay] How did you know that the, er, Queen was coming?

Shay : [Surprised at the question] We brought her here.

Chastity : This must be a very powerful artefact, as I was contacted across three timelines. What did this mysterious stranger look like? [There's a chorus of rowdy "Woooaaaahs!" from the crowd, clearly directed at SCARTHUR, who blushes, clearly quite annoyed.]

Shay : Sorry, my Queen. It was indeed a powerful artefact. In fact, we were very surprised it didn't work right away - whatever was interfering with it must be something huge. And er, the stranger, he was dark haired, a rather pleasant chap. He had a northern accent, but had documentation to show us that he was really a souther spy.

Alice : [Looks Scarthur up and down] What happened? You have an affair with him or something?

Scarthur : Certainly not!

Shay : He, er, impregnated Scarthur's daughters.

Chastity : [To Scarthur] You poor man. You must feel so ashamed and humiliated. Did you get the name of this fellow? I presume it must have been on his documentation.

Tamsin: [Curiously] And where are these tournaments being held?

Chastity : [Her face darkening] Darius! We have met this man many times before. This is just the sort of behaviour he's capable of. And topless beach volleyball does not sound like the sort activity young ladies should be participating in?

Alice : Well, he does now!

Scarthur : Darius.

Austin : [With an emphasis on the 'ters'] Daughters?

Scarthur : Yes, the twins. Mashly and Airy-Kate, and it was just on their eighteenth birthday too. [Darkly] And they told me that they were going to another round of the topless beach volleyball tournament.

Alice : Oh, I don't know, Chas, it can be fun, especially when all the - I mean, absolutely not, entirely inappropriate!

Thatch : [To Tamsin] Apparantly in room 200 in the hotel.

Scarthur : [Nods appreciatively at Chastity's words] Thank you, my Queen. [Gestures to Alice] Did he impregnate her too? [ALICE slaps him across the face.]

Scarthur : [Without missing a beat] Ah, it's just like being at home.

Chastity : [To Scarthur] One of the few who hasn't at least gone through the motions, anyway. [To Shay] Perhaps we should have a look at this object in the square. Where did Darius go?

Tamsin: [Jots down "room 200" on the back of a dirty limerick]

Austin : [Smirking] It may be easier to answer 'Where didn't Darius go'.

Thatch : He was such a charming man. [SCARTHUR leads the whole group back into the middle of the town, and into what is obviously a small church. What appears to be the entire population of the town is now following the party. Right in the middle of the church is what looks like a small cauldron.]

Alice : Is that it?

Shay : It was much more impressive before you all arrived!

Tamsin: [To Shay, puzzled] What did it look like before we arrived? [Tries to peer into the cauldron]

Austin : [Also peers into the cauldron] It looks like a mini version of the Heart, what's in it? [The cauldron contains a thick brown liquid, and is different enough from the one that contained the heart to not be a replica.]

Shay : Haven't a clue, but before you came it was bubbling, and sending out occasional sparks of electricity. [Kicks a dead pigeon under a seat]

Alice : [Looking around] Hey! Look at the pictures! [Spread around the church are large paintings of what are obviously cards from The Deck. They are in the order The Magician(DANGSTEN), The Priestess(MARASMUS), The Empress(DANIELLE), The Emperor(HARVEY), The Hierophant(ADAM), Death, The Devil, The Sun(SVEN), Page of Wands(CLINT), Queen of Pentacles(CHASTITY) and the King of Swords.]

Austin : [Looking in the cauldron] That looks very much like nascency fluid.

Tamsin: [Uneasily] Electricity, eh? Does it ever anything? Like, er, zap people back in time? Just as an example.

Alice : [Sniffing it] A bit, but this is pretty inert. [Picks up the dead pigeon and sticks it in, mixing it around, before taking it out again] Looks like it passes the pigeon test.

Shay : [To Tamsin] I suppose it could, if they were in the wrong time. [Sounds very uncertain] I really don't know.

Stephen : What if something was trying to pull the person somewhere else, like, er, back in time? Just as an example.

Shay : I'm sorry, I don't know anything about it. I guess whichever was stronger would get the person, until it stopped pulling them, and then they'd go to the other one. Things could be kind of unpredictable though, you know, zapping through time! [Laughs goodnaturedly]

Stephen : How long exactly have you people been waiting for a queen to arrive? Ha, you wait eons for one to arrive, and then three arrive at the same time!

Shay : We've been waiting thousands of years, longer than any one can remember, really. If you mean when did Darius bring the cauldron, it's three weeks.

Tamsin: What did he tell you about the cauldron when he brought it? Bit of a peculiar parting gift if you ask me.

Shay : Not really. He told us that's what it would do.

Alice : [Looking more closely at the pictures] So, each of these people are Gods? [SHAY and the others exchange surprised glances.]

Shay : Er, no, they're travellers.

Tamsin: Travellers in the traditional sense? Like regular people who go from one place to the next and so on? If so, why'd they get the special card treatment? Who decided to put them on the cards, anyway?

Chastity : More like travellers on the path, I think. [To Shay] Sometimes those closest are too close to see.

Shay : [Writing something down, talking to himself as he does so] "...too close to see." You are so wise, my Queen. [To Tamsin] I don't know, perhaps the Queen could tell you?

Chastity : Maybe later, when we have more time. [Goes to examine the pictures of the cards they have already seen, starting with herself. Pretending to look for dust on them] How long have these pictures been up? Thousands of years?

Tamsin: [To Stephen] Who decides who gets put on the cards?

Stephen : [Glares at Tamsin] Have you always been a woman?

Shay : They've been here as long as the church, probably a few hundred years, but the images have been passed down for thousands of years.

Tamsin: [To Stephen, teasing] Why? You attracted to me or something? [To Shay] So, have you met anyone else on these cards, before Churchy--I mean, Queenie [gestures to Chastity] here?

Stephen : No. [Sniffs haughtily] You're too butch for me!

Shay : Oh no! Seeing the Queen is indeed a wonderful moment for us, for the Travellers to be made flesh is surely a sign that great things are upon us!

Alice : Or maybe it means it's the end of the world?

Shay : [Face dropping] Hm, well, there is the war, and that whole Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse thing going on.

Tamsin: [Unenthusiastically] Great. So, just out of curiosity, what did you people have planned for old Queenie? She got some kind of sacred duty to fulfill or something?

Geneva: And more importantly, does it involve risking the lift of her fluk-- err acolytes to fulfil this sacred duty?

Shay : I'm not sure, but I expect so, that's certainly how Peter made it sound.

Alice : Peter?

Shay : [Smiles at the thought of him] Yep, he told us that your own a holy and sacred mission. I think the way ahead now is pretty clear, the war will end as soon as possible, and we will co-ordinate our armies against the Bringer, but, of course, your minds are on higher things.

Alice : [Eyes light up] Cheese?

Geneva: [Eyes narrowing.] And what else did Peter have to say?

Shay : All sorts of things, man, he's the funniest guy I've ever met!

Shay : Royal duties for the Queen? [Big smile] That sounds like something Peter would say! [Gestures to Chastity] Of course the Queen knows better, but I believe she is going to find the heart.

Alice : [Shocked] The Heart?

Shay : Um [looks guiltily at Chastity] Forgive me, my Queen, if I've said too much.

Alice : [To Chastity] The Heart? You're taking us to find the Heart and you weren't even going to tell us?

Chastity : [To Alice] We've been on our way to finding the heart for the last while. Do pay attention, dear. [To Monty] It just goes to show that peroxide and mathematics don't mix.

Geneva: So, I'm guessing, oh Queen, you'd know what we should do now then2

Chastity : [Elusively to Geneva] Possibly. [To Shay] Some healing potions would be most welcome, thank you. I'd best save my strength, who knows what evil we may encounter on our journey.

Shay : [Ignoring Alice's cross face as he writes down Chastity's latest pearl of wisdom] Looks like bad news for the blonde mathematicians, then! My Queen, we have horses for you, fuelled up and ready to go. Now, do you want to cure the wounds of your people yourself? Or should we get some healing potions?

Barney : [Tentatively putting up his hand like a small child] Uh, small turtles with really sharp teeth?

Thatch : [Slaps him on the arm] Idiot! [Normal calm voice] It was [emphasis] clearly a rhetorical question. [Looks from side to side, before leaning in to Chastity] It was, wasn't it?

[A bunch of healing potions is brought out, and everyone is restored to full health, and each given one spare. The party are then brought to the town gates where they are given horses. SHAY and some others are also on horseback, as is PETER, but it looks as though those two are heading in a different direction.]

Alice : [To Peter] Where are you going?

Peter : We're going to be miniaturised and inserted into your body through the nose. Of course, we probably won't have to be made too small.

Geneva: Not me! I'm too small for shenanigans like that!

Chastity : [Giggling. To Shay] He's great, isn't he. Technically much better than my other Jester. [Glances at Stephen] But he'll learn. [Looks round] What happened to Ivan?

Shay : The guy's a comic genius! [Enter IVAN, with an arm around each of MASHLEY and AIRY-KATE ARGYLE, both of whom are just noticeably pregnant. SCARTHUR, who's standing nearby slaps his forehead in dismay.]

Ivan : [Smoking a huge cheeseratte and wearing an obscenely large grin] Hey hey hey!

Geneva: Here comes the cavalry

Ivan : Just keeping 'em warm. [Kisses each of the twins, who giggle mindlessly, before getting onto his horse]

Scarthur : You bastard! You absolute bastard! You are a disgrace, sir, a disgrace! Have you anything to say for yourself?

Ivan : Sure, here's Mashley's pants. [Hands over a pair of skimpy underwear to Scarthur] Or was it Airy-Kate's?

Shay : Goodbye my Queen, [nods to the party] and goodbye my friends. You have brought peace to the south. Peter and I will meet with our government now to finalise everything.

Chastity : Almost fitting, all things considered. [To Ivan] What are you're plans? Are you staying to follow up Darius's interests again?

Chastity : [To Shay] Thank you for your kind wishes and hospitality. Hopefully I shall return when the air of animosity between North and South is but history. [To Peter] Good luck Peter. I'm sure you'll do a great job, as ever. [To the party] Shall we go, then?

Geneva: [Happily.] Happily! [To Chastity.] I think those people must have gone to the same school I went to, what with worshipping nuns and all. [To Tamsin.] Did you believe that [emphasis] me beating you in a fight would have led to this?

Tamsin : [Mildly amused at Geneva] If you had beaten me, then I doubt I could ever be surprised again.

Ivan : I'm heading south with Peter, someone has to keep that crazy cat under control, isn't that right, Petey?

Peter : [Looks at the now crying Argyle twins] Yes, I see you are adept at looking after people. [Looks at the party with his customary distaste] Yes, well. [With barely concealed contempt] I really hope to see you all again.

Alice : [Muttering] I hate that guy. [As SHAY and the others start riding off, PETER pauses and looks at the party once more.]

Peter : [For once with a soft look on his face, and speaking in a somewhat concerned tone of voice] You need to be very, very careful.

Alice : [Rolls her eyes, sighing as she folds her arms, clearly expecting some sort of jibe] Why?

Peter : Because from within it consumes. [Exit PETER with the rest.]